LISBON, Dec 13 (Reuters) – Heavy rains that hit part of the Iberian peninsula on Tuesday flooded streets, washed away cars and forced authorities in Lisbon, the Portuguese capital, to suspend bus and tram services and close some main roads.
Lisbon’s mayor’s office put the city on a “red” weather alert at 6:30 a.m. (0630 GMT) and urged people to stay home and avoid traveling to the capital on the Tagus River estuary.
Since midnight, emergency services have reported more than 500 incidents across Portugal, mainly in Lisbon and the central Portalegre district, including flooded streets, tunnels and train stations. Some shops and restaurants were semi-submerged.
The schools in the municipality of Oeiras, belonging to the Lisbon district, have closed and the students have been sent home.
The emergency plan for the Tagus River has been activated, which means that there is a risk of it overflowing.
The Civil Protection commander, André Fernandes, said at a press conference that “it will not be easy” to normalize the situation, since it is likely that the rainfall will intensify after 1:00 p.m. local time.
The mayor’s office said the city’s buses and trams were not working, the metro was not fully operational and several train stations were inaccessible due to flooding.
Adverse weather conditions also paralyzed the Lisbon metropolitan area last Wednesday, when one person died in a flooded basement.
Heavy rains hit other parts of the country on Tuesday and the IPMA weather agency declared a red alert in the central district of Portalegre, where many homes are flooded.
Neighboring Spain has also been affected, with the central-western region of Extremadura in the second highest level of emergency. Heavy rains caused a road to collapse and a group of ten people had to be rescued.
“Today is a day to stay at home, work from home, a bit like we did during the pandemic,” the head of Portugal’s IPMA, Miguel Miranda, told the SIC television channel. “It’s the only way to help those who work to help us on the streets.”
The Lisbon city council has been criticized for not having built infrastructure to prevent flooding over the years. The mayor, Carlos Moedas, said that works to build a 5-kilometre drainage tunnel should start soon.
(Reporting by Pedro Nunes, Sérgio Gonçalves and Catarina Demony in Lisbon; Additional reporting by Emma González in Madrid; Editing in Spanish by Benjamín Mejías Valencia)