The floods in Alcanar and Montsià demand serious solutions

Neighbors removing water and mud from their houses, parking lots and businesses, with furniture and household appliances turned into rubbish, with roads and agricultural estates under the flood, with the crucial intervention of Firemen, Mossos d'Esquadra and dozens of Civil Protection volunteers.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
04 September 2023 Monday 11:12
4 Reads
The floods in Alcanar and Montsià demand serious solutions

Neighbors removing water and mud from their houses, parking lots and businesses, with furniture and household appliances turned into rubbish, with roads and agricultural estates under the flood, with the crucial intervention of Firemen, Mossos d'Esquadra and dozens of Civil Protection volunteers. To clean up yesterday, remove water and try to get back to normal, and to evacuate and rescue a dozen vehicles in serious trouble on Sunday.

The images have become a desperate routine in the hours and days following episodes of torrential rain in Alcanar, the epicenter of floods that periodically punish Montsià. From the interior and the mountains, in the Montsià mountain range, to the sea, following the course of ravines that bring destruction in the form of torrents.

Three severe floods in less than five years (2018, 2021 and 2023). Almost miraculously, for now, no personal injuries.

They have suffered it again in the La Pau urbanization, next to the ravine that divides Alcanar and La Ràpita, with low floors and flooded basements. Or at the El Racó del Port restaurant, in Les Cases d'Alcanar, fed up with being a recurring TV news set because the ravine that flows into the sea next to their business overflows and sweeps away everything in its path. Or in the center of Santa Bárbara, or in Ulldecona, with floods especially in its extensive network of roads, vital to reach the fields.

Among the lamentations and outbursts, a message is repeated among the neighbors: we knew it would happen again and unfortunately it won't be the last. "We're fed up with patches that make the situation worse, they're rubbish. The administrations must invest money and do it well", criticizes Sílvia, one of the neighbors of one of the Alcanar Platja housing estates. WhatsApp groups were blowing smoke.

Devastation and shared indignation at Montsià. A feeling of helplessness and doom announced every time the end-of-summer storms dump more than 200 liters per square meter in a handful of hours. Phenomena that with the climate crisis are and will be increasingly frequent.

As always happens when there are floods in Montsià, the parade of political authorities was repeated yesterday. The Generalitat's entourage was led by Laura Vilagrà, Councilor of the Presidency, and Joan Ignasi Elena, Councilor of the Interior. They visited the most affected areas, spoke to some of those affected, hoses and brooms to remove mud in hand (the neighbors) and met with the mayors of the most affected municipalities.

"Climate change is clearly an absolutely palpable reality in this area, but we have a strategy to mitigate its effects with concrete investments that must be made as soon as possible," said Councilor Vilagrà.

The Government adds that there are actions that were activated after the last floods by Acció Climàtica and the Catalan Water Agency (ACA) and that have helped to reduce the effects of the floods this time. "It is necessary to continue investing, as soon as possible, and evaluate the areas of greatest risk", added the minister.

Having suffered three torrential episodes with floods in less than five years, always between September and October, the mayors are demanding fundamental solutions, but with short and medium-term investments because the climate emergency is multiplying the DANA, the cold drops accompanied by virulent storms.

They also ask that aid to repair the damage reach the councils more quickly. It now takes two to three years to collect the aid, which forces the municipalities to go into debt or prevents them from acting more quickly.

After spending the last few very hard hours, the mayor of Alcanar, Joan Roig (ERC), yesterday insisted on the need to look for structural solutions and bravely pointed to one of the foci of the problem. "There has been disastrous urban management in Alcanar from the sixties to the nineties and we are now paying the consequences. What would be needed is to re-naturalize the river flows. Where there were ravines and ravines, houses have now been built, and the water looks for a way out and destroys houses and everything in its path. It has happened to us three times in four years and unfortunately it can happen again", said the mayor of Alcanar to El Món on RAC1. "The situation is extremely serious and luckily we have not had to worry about personal damage", he added.

The problem, of a dimension that far exceeds the municipalities and their technical and economic resources, raises the problem of expropriations. The City Council proposes the creation of a table of experts in urban planning, meteorology and hydrology to look for technical solutions. "We are talking about expropriating possibly half a hundred or more villas, regaining the natural flood areas that were there before the buildings were built. The water comes down from the mountains, is channeled through the ravines and reaches the sea, but now there are villas and streets", explains Roig.

President Pere Aragonès also spoke in an interview on TV3 about the problem that is being repeated in Alcanar. For the most responsible person in the Government, it is necessary to think about "palliative" measures and other "more structural ones, anticipating different scenarios, but in a consensual manner". For Aragonès, moving people from their homes (expropriations) must be "the last option".

The magnitude of the latest floods does not have the catastrophic dimension of the downpour of 2018 or that of 2021, but it occurs in almost exact circumstances. The worst thing is that affected residents and councils know that they will be repeated if no in-depth action is taken. The solution is to execute a global plan at once with structural actions, of urban importance. They agree on what; the how is another story.

One of the big problems, the most complex to face, is that there is a part of the buildings in flood zones, as is now evident with the torrential rains and the ravines that collect the water from the mountain, in the Sierra del Montsià These are houses that were built decades ago, amidst the chaotic urban growth of the seventies, eighties and nineties. Until now, no one had dared to consider the elimination of homes. There are those who have bought their house in the affected area in recent years, without suspecting anything, and have encountered the last three floods. a nightmare

To the material damage, abundant and desperate, is added the anguish of spending hours glued to the mobile phone and the media, with messages from the Civil Protection ordering confinement at eight o'clock in the morning on Sunday and advising to go up to the highest floors of the houses.

Councilor Elena highlighted the good functioning of the system for sending mass alerts to mobile phones, ordering the confinement of the 9,600 residents of Alcanar. He also positively assessed the activation of the Inuncat plan, which alerted the municipalities. "We have an emergency system that works," he said from the affected area.

"We thought we were going to die", explained yesterday one of the residents of one of the housing estates in Alcanar Platja, the area this time most punished. His story, of goosebumps. The force of the tornado destroyed his garden with swimming pool and blocked all the exit doors of the house for more than an hour, while water was coming in.

"We have a serious problem. I suffer for the personal damages, for what may happen. It is a warning and we are scared, we suffer for the people", the mayor of Alcanar was sincere.