Spain was plunged into chaos on Saturday as snow blanked the country, bringing it to a standstill.
A persistent blizzard blanketed large parts of Spain with an unusual amount of snow on Saturday, killing at least four people and leaving thousands trapped in cars or at train stations and airports that suspended all services.
The national weather agency reported that as of 7 am CET, the snowfall in Madrid reached a level unseen in half a century. More than 50 centimeters (20 inches) of snow fell in the Spanish capital, according to the weather agency AEMET.
More than half of Spain’s provinces remained under severe weather alerts for Storm Filomena on Saturday evening, seven of them at the highest level of warning. In Madrid, authorities activated a red alert for the first time since the system was adopted four decades ago and called in the military to rescue people from vehicles trapped on everything from small roads to the city’s major thoroughfares.
As of Saturday evening, Spanish security services had rescued over 1,500 people who were trapped in vehicles, Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said.
AEMET had warned that some regions would be receiving more than 24 hours of continuous snowfall due to the odd combination of a cold air mass stagnant over the Iberian Peninsula and the arrival of the warmer Storm Filomena from the south.
The storm is expected to be followed by a severe drop in temperatures in the coming days, the agency said.
Transport Minster José Luis Ábalos warned that "snow is going to turn into ice and we will enter a situation perhaps more dangerous than what we have at the moment."