MADRID – A calamitous storm has killed at least 11 people in Spain and left five others missing, as well as causing rivers to overflow their banks and contaminating vast agricultural areas in eastern Spain with salty seawater.
New reports of disappearances in northeastern Catalonia and the Mediterranean nation's Balearic Islands increased fears that the death toll from Storm Gloria could still increase.
The storm has dragged people to their deaths with surging sea waves, trapped others in vehicles amid flooding and hit them with loosened building debris. At least two homeless people died of hypothermia earlier in the week, when temperatures plummeted across the country.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez visited some of the hardest-hit areas on Thursday, flying over in a helicopter and meeting with rescue and emergency teams on the ground. He said he would approve state funds for the five regions most affected by the storm.
The storm has lasted for five days, accompanied by heavy winds, snow and hail, although weather authorities said the worst of it had passed on Wednesday.
Satellite imagery from the European Union's Emergency Management Service showed how salt water had surged into the delta of the Ebro River, a major artery in eastern Spain, flooding rice paddies and protected wetland areas. The sea water extended 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) inland.
Lluís Soler, mayor of the delta region's town of Deltebre, called for the area to be granted catastrophic status, which frees up compensation for those affected by the storm.
The hard-hit regions include northeastern Catalonia, where authorities on Thursday were still monitoring several rivers for fear they could overflow, and southern Andalucia, parts of which were hit by a sudden hail storm early Thursday.
In Mallorca, one of the Mediterranean islands off Spain's eastern coast, rescuers and firefighters have been looking since Monday for a man who disappeared when he was mountain climbing.
Two more people, a Spaniard and a British citizen, were still missing on the nearby island of Ibiza, with authorities saying they were most likely dragged into the sea by unusually high waves.
Authorities in Catalonia said they were working to return power to more than 10,000 people and school closures from the storm were affecting some 130,000 students.