PALMA.

11-10-2018ALEJANDRO SEPULVEDA

Hundreds of people descended on Sant Llorenç yesterday to offer their help in the massive clean-up operation. Mud and rubbish still covered and littered the streets of the municipality: not just the village but down to the coast at S'Illot as well. At first light there were a few dozen people. By nine o'clock there were hundreds. The 112 emergency service had to send out a message saying that there were enough volunteers and will also be sufficient for the weekend. Thanks were extended to all those who had gone, but the police, town hall and Civil Protection faced a new problem: so many people going to the area and so many who needed to be organised.

The numbers were swelled because it was a bank holiday. Civil Protection, in charge of organisation, had to ask for patience from those lining up at the improvised volunteer centre in the town hall square. At another square, in front of the church, there were rubbish bags, buckets, brooms and cleaning products. The Red Cross had set up a tent and were handing out coffee, drinks and biscuits. Volunteers had otherwise been asked to bring their own food and brooms.

A task for the volunteer organisation effort was to let people know to go to other places and not the centre of the village. S'Illot, Son Carrio and parts of other municipalities needed help, such as Canyamel in Capdepera.

Through the day, private individuals and companies arrived with donations of food, clothing and any other items of use to the people of Sant Llorenç. With more than 2,000 properties affected, they needed anything that could be supplied. An announcement was made asking people with further donations to take them to the Crist Rei parish church in Manacor. The church's social centre is being used as a reception for donations between ten in the morning and one in the afternoon and between four and six in the afternoon.

Away from the municipality, there was much fundraising: supermarkets, for instance, were taking donations on top of payments for the day's shopping. As well as all the assistance locally and the emergency funds that will come from Madrid, the European Commission yesterday announced that it was ready to offer more help if it is needed. European Union flags are being flown at half mast and will be until Sunday.

While the volunteers were doing their utmost, there was a grim task elsewhere. The search continued for the five-year-old boy who went missing on Tuesday. Artur's backpack had been found late in the afternoon on Thursday not far from the roundabout in Son Carrio where the family car had been overwhelmed and in which his mother, Joana Lliteres, had lost her life.

More started to emerge about procedures on Tuesday. Aemet had issued a yellow warning for heavy rain on the Monday. The alert changed to amber shortly before seven o'clock on Tuesday. There was an isolated depression passing over the area. The red alert was not given until ten o'clock. By that time, more than 200 litres per square metre of rain had already fallen. Sant Llorenç, Colonia Sant Pere and Arta bore the brunt of the deluge.

Aemet now say that there has to be an improved procedure. The agency has local weather stations, but the events of Tuesday have highlighted an issue with internal communications to and from the regional base in Palma. The head of the agency in the Balearics, María José Guerrero, announced yesterday that there is to be an investigation with the aim of being able to improve forecasts. Numerical models, she admitted, are not exact with their predictions.

The regional government's minister for public administration, Catalina Cladera, sought to deflect criticisms about emergency intervention. The first advice of flooding in Sant Llorenç came at half six in the evening. Half an hour later, the emergency services were fully aware that there was a very serious situation. The village was by then cut off. At half eight, the army's UME emergency unit was put on stand-by (soldiers from the unit arrived in Majorca in the early hours of Wednesday morning), and at nine o'clock the flood plan, Inunbal, was applied. Cladera stressed yesterday that some 200 people were rescued during the first hours of the floods.

With hotels in S'Illot being forced to close, the tourism ministry has been at pains to point out that only a small area of Majorca was affected. Jaume Alzamora, the director-general of the Aetib tourism agency, said yesterday that he and the government were deeply saddened by events but wished to reassure visitors that the floods had been an isolated incident and the worst of their kind for eighty years.

Among those who died were the British couple Delia and Tony Green. Their taxi was overwhelmed by floodwater near S'Illot. They had been on their way to Cala Bona from the airport. The driver, Juan Sillero, also died. Mr and Mrs Green had recently celebrated their 55th anniversary. They had arrived in Majorca for a fortnight's holiday. Mr Green was a retired headmaster. He and wife regularly travelled together. Both in their seventies, they were from Moffat in Dumfries.

Their family and friends have expressed their great shock and sadness, but have said that they can take solace from the knowledge that they died together. "Delia and Tony were a loving, kind and caring couple. They were at their happiest when they were with their family and friends."

King Felipe and Queen Letizia arrived in Sant Llorenç late in the afternoon yesterday. They met President Armengol and members of the emergency service but, more importantly, the people who had suffered because of the flooding and the volunteers.

There was another meeting yesterday. Daniel Thielk, the German cyclist who saved seven-year-old Ursula, the sister of Artur, had been contacted by members of Joana Lliteres's family. He has explained what happened. A resident of Cala Ratjada, he had gone for a bike ride, and then the storm hit. He sought shelter and after some minutes the torrent burst. Close by was Joana Lliteres's car. It was being dragged under. Joana managed to get Ursula out of the car. He heard the girl scream and was able to move against the flow of the water and grab her. The girl was calling for her mother. He was unable to do any more. He found a cabin in which he and the girl sheltered. It was two hours before emergency personnel found them. The child was in shock.

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