Heavy storms hit southern Europe causing huge disruptions

Storms in Southern Europe
Storms in Southern Europe Copyright AP via screenshot
Copyright AP via screenshot
By Philip Andrew Churm with AFP
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Strong winds and heavy rains have hit Spain and Italy causing widespread flooding and devastation

Train services between France and Italy have been halted until Thursday at the earliest, after a huge rock slide in the Maurienne valley in the French Alps. It also blocked some roads, officials said on Monday.


Regional authorities in Savoie said the rockslide occurred at 5:15 pm (1515 GMT) on Sunday, when "boulders with a total volume of 700 cubic metres (25,000 cubic feet)" slammed into a protective barrier along the RD 1006 road that leads to the Mont-Cenis pass into Italy's Susa valley.

The landslide forced the suspension of all cross-border trains on the Chambery-Turin line, as well as TER regional trains in the Maurienne valley, French rail operator SNCF said.

The Frejus tunnel connecting France and Italy under the Alps has also been closed to heavy trucks, whose drivers are being advised to use the Mont Blanc tunnel or the A8 motorway instead.

French Transport Minister Clement Beaune said a return to normal services "will require several days".

"After this massive landslide yesterday in Maurienne, our services are mobilised to restore road and rail service as quickly as possible," he said on social media.

Rocks block the track on the rail route from Italy to France, August 28, 2023EVN

Spain's Mediterranean coastline was hit Sunday by violent winds and heavy rain, which caused several minor injuries and substantial material damage and disrupted several flights.

Gusts of up to 120 km/h, downpours and sometimes hail hit the Balearic Islands and the regions of Catalonia and Valencia, all three of which were partially placed under orange alert (high risk) on Sunday by the National Meteorological Agency (Aemet).

The weather is part of a violent storm that broke out on Sunday morning, blowing down numerous trees, causing flash flooding and damaging a bullring in the town of Felanitx.

The thunderstorms left motorists having to navigate treacherous conditions.

Strong winds and heavy rain whip across the port of Palma on Spain’s Majorca island.AFP

The wind also broke the moorings of a 330-metre tourist cruise ship moored in Palma, on the island of Mallorca, displacing it until it collided with a moored oil tanker. 

The accident caused six minor injuries, the Port Authority of the Balearic Islands said in a statement.

At least 24 flights were cancelled and 29 were diverted to and from the Balearic Islands on Sunday, Spanish airport operator Aena announced.

Heavy rains led to an accumulation of more than 100 litres of water per square metre in some parts of Catalonia in the middle of a drought. In Vilassar de Mar, firefighters rescued a motorist whose vehicle was dragged by the water and became trapped under a bridge.

Powerful winds and torrential rain also poured in Northern Italy, first in Lombardy on Saturday, when heavy storms uprooted trees and damaged roofs and then on Sunday in Liguria.

People in Genoa on Sunday morning were caught off-guard by the heavy rainfall and a high alert remains in place for most of Monday in Liguria.

The Poppea cyclone, coming from the North of Europe, is pushing its way across the country and it is set to sweep away the summer heat wave.  

Wildfires continue to rage in parts of Greece

Meanwhile, wildfires have continued to rage in parts of Greece.  A fire that broke out on the Cycladic island of Andros on Saturday, probably caused by lightning, was brought under control by Sunday as firefighters remained in key hotspots as a precaution due to strong winds blowing in the area.

Firefighting efforts focused on the front near the village of Vitali. 73 firefighters with 18 fire trucks were operating at the scene, while two aircraft and two helicopters provided assistance from the air.


With hot, dry summers, southern European countries are particularly prone to wildfires however, European Union officials have blamed climate change for the increasing frequency and intensity of such fires, noting that 2022 was the second-worst year for wildfire damage on record after 2017.

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