MADRID (AP) — Authorities in the Spanish city of Zaragoza braced Tuesday for a critical surge in the level of the Ebro River, after flooding further upstream in recent days was blamed for two deaths.
The river’s flow rate climbed to 2,000 cubic meters (70,600 cubic feet) a second — almost double Sunday’s rate as water from torrential rain and thawing snow rushed down the Ebro valley.
In the last major floods in the area, in 2015, the flow rate reached 2,400 cubic meters (84,700 cubic feet) a second.
The swollen river cuts through Zaragoza, a city of around 700,000 people in northeastern Spain. Flood waters have already submerged large areas of nearby farmland.
City authorities attempted to minimize any potential damage by taking precautionary measures along the riverbank, including evacuations and traffic diversions. Trucks carrying dirt were on standby to help shore up riverbanks and protect urban areas.
Emergency crews had to rescue two people from a van which broke down as it tried to cross a flooded area of countryside.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said on a visit to the affected areas that his Cabinet will on Friday declare them “catastrophe zones,” which enables aid for farmers and others to be expedited.
He said floods have in recent times become “much more frequent” in Spain because of climate change.
The Ebro is the second-longest river on the Iberian Peninsula, stretching 930 kilometers (about 580 miles) from the mountains of Cantabria to the Mediterranean Sea.