At least 10 people died on the Spanish island of Mallorca after a torrential rainstorm caused flash flooding that left a trail of piled vehicles and damaged infrastructure from surges of water and mud.
Two British citizens and a Dutch woman were among the victims found yesterday, one day after the rainfall, a spokeswoman with the regional emergency service said.
The only missing person as of yesterday afternoon was a 5-year-old boy who disappeared with his mother. The Civil Guard found the mother's body. Before floodwaters dragged her and the boy away, the woman reportedly managed to bring her 7 year-old daughter out of their vehicle, according to unidentified Civil Guard sources quoted by Spanish private news agency Europa Press.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said during a visit to the eastern coast of the island that the impacted area would be declared a "zone of catastrophe", which unlocks funds for recovery, reconstruction and compensation of victims.
"We won't give people our backs," Sanchez told reporters. "Given the magnitude of what happened we are going to unleash all resources necessary to return their lives to their everydayness, but the most urgent thing right now is to find those people disappeared."
Authorities said the rainstorm was unlike any people could remember. They described it as both intense and localised in a narrow stretch of land, which led to the overflowing of a creek that cuts through the town of Sant Llorenc des Cardassar, about 60 kilometres east of Palma de Mallorca.
Videos shot on mobile phones by local residents showed a strong current of water and mud that buried cars and tore trees on its way down the streets of the town of 8000.
Swamped streets and piles of overturned cars, some of them along the guardrails of a major road, were a common sight in Sant Llorenc and other nearby towns on Wednesday.
Two Britons and two local residents died in Sant Llorenc, the town's deputy mayor, Antonia Bauza, told Cadena SER radio.
In an emailed statement, the British government's Foreign Office said: "We are supporting the family of two British people following their deaths in Spain, and will do all we can to assist them at this deeply difficult time."
A Balearic Islands' emergency services spokeswoman, who wasn't authorized to be named in media reports, told the Associated Press that the body of a Dutch woman was also recovered from the garage of a house in Arta, another nearby town.
Other victims were found in Arta and the coastal village of S'illot, where the creek that overflowed reaches the sea. Rescuers with inflatable boats and divers were looking for vehicles that were believed to be dragged by the current into the sea.
"It all happened in less than 10 minutes," an unidentified witness with wet clothes told the public broadcaster TVE. "We had to swim to try to survive."
Others were caught on the road, unable to reach their houses. Angela Alfaro had to spend the night in a shelter because a road section leading to Sant Llorenc had collapsed. When she finally made it home on Wednesday, all she found was chaos.
"As far as I know, I have lost everything," she told an AP camera crew. "This looks like the end of the world."
Another resident, Tomas Oliver, cleaned his house as he celebrated that all the damage in his household had been material.
"We are grateful that we are all alive, but we pray for those that have lost their lives to this huge flood," Oliver said.
Authorities said 80 soldiers and seven vehicles from the military's emergency unit had joined Wednesday more than 100 rescuers who had been working in the area overnight. In all, more than 500 people helped with rescue and cleaning up operations, authorities said.
At least three towns closed schools and hundreds of people were sheltered in sport facilities and a local horse racing track. The flooding also affected phone communications, destroyed two bridges and forced the closure of 11 roads.
Tuesday evening's rainstorm was "extraordinarily intense but localized," affecting a narrow stretch of land with heavy rainfall concentrated during a short period of time, said Ruben del Campo, spokesman for national weather agency AEMET.
"This is hardly seen in the islands," Del Campo said.
The agency's data showed that some parts of the island received up to 23 centimeters (nine inches) of rainfall in around four hours on Tuesday evening, more than one third of the average amount that rains annually.
Weather authorities said more heavy rainfall was expected Wednesday in the Balearic Islands as well as eastern and southern parts of the Iberian peninsula.