Mariska de Zoete of Fruca: "Our homes and cars are completely flooded"

Clearing the rubble in Spain after the severe weather; leafy vegetable shortages a sure thing in the winter"

Last week, the Southeastern parts of Spain were pummeled by unusually heavy rain and floods. The severe weather claimed at least six lives. An estimated 3,500 people have lost their homes due to the floods. A Dutch national is also missing. The 66-year-old man fell victim to the weather in the Spanish city of Alicante. Rescuers fear he may have been swept many kilometers along. 

"Strange images from Spain. In Murcia and Alicante whole villages have been flooded by the extreme amount of rainfall. More than 400mm fell locally in the past two days. This is what it looks like from the air. Source: José Manuel Amoros/Informacion (fb) #onweer

- Wouter van Bernebeek (@StormchaserNL) September 13. 2019"

Mariska de Zoete works in Fruca's Commercial Division in Murcia. She also had to evacuate the area due to the severe weather. "We are staying with acquaintances. Our two houses, where my parents and I live, are completely flooded. As are our cars. We are going to clear the rubble now. But I do not know where to start. It is really awful!"

"On Friday afternoon, it seemed the rain was over. But, on Saturday morning at about 05:00, there was a huge thunderstorm. There were hailstones the size of golfballs and bigger," says Thomasol's Thomas Bos. This storm caused significant damage in Puerto Lumbreras, in Murcia, and Pulpí. "A lot of the first crops of broccoli, iceberg lettuce, and other lettuce varieties have been lost."

Rien Paans of Verfru Europe finds himself in Tarragona. He says there were no problems in the Delta Ebro/Tarragona region. "I was in Murcia with my son, Arthur. We were to have returned to Tarragona on Thursday afternoon. It soon became clear that this would be impossible. A lot of the roads were flooded. We, therefore, stayed in Murcia a day longer. This extra time afforded us the chance to get a proper picture of the immense damage. A lot of roads, houses, and car have been damaged. Fields were also completely flooded."

"I recently contacted various growers and cooperatives. They are not yet able to estimate the damage as a whole, but it will be unbelievably large," continues Rien. "One grower says 90%, if not 100%, of his crops for the December harvest are lost. They are expecting major losses in endive, spinach, and iceberg lettuce crops. It is very difficult to plant anew. It will also be a while before the fields can be worked again. The plants will have to be germinated again too. There will certainly be shortages in December."

300,000 hectares damaged
The Segura river is still overflowing in places. Thousands of nearby residents are still being evacuated from their homes. There is no more water, and in some cases, no electricity available. Two growers associations' initial damage estimates have come in already. They estimate there is damage to more than 300,000 hectares. The Aaja Alicante Growers Organization estimates the storm has struck about 150,000 hectares of citrus, vegetables, and grapes. The affected area lies between Elche and Pilar de la Horadada. It is also feared that some 150,000 hectares have been lost to storm damage in Murcia.

The rains prevented grapes being harvested in Murcia last week. This means exporters could not send their products to the rest of Europe. A few exporters predicted the floods. They harvested more grapes in the preceding week. This was done to supplement their cold storage stocks. These exporters were able to continue sending their goods to market. This was possible thanks to Murcia's good infrastructure.

In this region, 90% of the grape acreage is under plastic houses. This meant the fruit was able to withstand the heavy rainfall. Growers are, however, expecting issues with humidity in the coming days. The exporters wanted to ship the first grapes to China last week. Now, they will have to wait eight days and then check the grapes' quality. This quality check is very necessary. The fruit is in transit for a long time before it reaches China.

The greenhouse vegetable sector has not been left unscathed. The Nijar region lies to the east of Almeria. There, there is talk of 200 hectares of vegetable greenhouses being damaged. The cultivation area's infrastructure has also been severely affected.

What the consequences of the flooding are for the rest of the season, are still unclear. Even if the greenhouses are still standing. It is still early in the season in Spain. Farmers in Nijar have already started harvesting cucumbers. What the damage will be, depends on how the cold rainwater affects the plants' roots. The same is true for tomatoes. These were planted last month. 

There are more than 30,000 hectares of greenhouses in Spain. Most are under plastic. Murcia and Almeria are important cultivation areas.

On Sunday, Almeria woke up to strong winds. This, after the catastrophic storm that battered the region. No-one in Nijar can remember ever being hit by a storm like this one. The storm has damaged roughly 300 hectares of greenhouses there. Tomatoes and aubergines were in full production. These, in particular, have been heavily affected. Reports of more than 1,000 hectares of storm damage to greenhouses have been reported throughout the Almeria region. 

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