MADRID — Madrid’s mayor on Thursday called on the central government to declare Spain’s capital a disaster zone, warning that the damage caused by last weekend’s snowstorm would cost at least 1.4 billion euros, or $1.7 billion, to fix.
Mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida told a news conference that the disaster designation would release emergency funds and ensure that “all the people who have suffered damages can be compensated as quickly as possible.”
Madrid has been struggling to reopen its streets to traffic and clear the piles of snow, which covered the city on Friday and Saturday. The storm, named Filomena, brought the heaviest snowfall Madrid has seen in almost 50 years, dropping more than a foot and a half of snow on the city and surrounding areas.
On Thursday, city hall officials warned that it would take several more days to clear all the roads, the task slowed by freezing weather conditions that are predicted to last until the middle of next week. Spain’s weather office forecast on Thursday that this 10-day period of freezing temperatures would be the longest stretch of such weather to hit Madrid in two decades.
Madrid’s airport was closed for most of the weekend and only resumed its normal flights schedule on Thursday, while schools and sports centers are set to remain closed until Monday.
The snowfall also destroyed parks around the capital, with damage recorded for 11,000 of the 17,000 trees in Retiro Park, according to local authorities.
More than 700 soldiers have been sent to help city services clear the snow in Madrid and the neighboring region of Castilla-La Mancha. Despite their efforts, 127 roads remained fully closed to traffic on Thursday.
The storm brought Madrid to a standstill, disrupting transport across the country, just as Spain was entering its third wave of the coronavirus pandemic. On Wednesday, Spain’s health ministry recorded its highest number of new cases since the pandemic hit Spain last March. The country’s Covid-19 death toll, more than 53,000, is one of the highest in Europe.
The snow also interrupted the country’s vaccination campaign, which started in late December. In Madrid, many health care workers were forced to work extra shifts to cover for colleagues who could not reach their hospitals because of the snow and ice.