January 23, 2020 / 7:35 PM / in a month

Spain calls emergency meeting as Storm Gloria death toll hits 13

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain’s government will hold an emergency meeting on Friday to deal with the impact of a storm that has caused heavy rains, powerful winds and huge waves, and killed at least 13 people.

Residents walk on a bridge on the Onyar river during the storm "Gloria" in Girona, Spain, January 22, 2020. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

Residents were left grappling with the wreckage of Storm Gloria, including collapsed bridges, damaged railway lines and entire beaches wiped away by waves.

Catalan authorities confirmed the two latest deaths on Thursday evening. A man was swept out to sea while fishing in the coastal town of Ametlla de Mar and another was found dead in his car inland in Cabaces, where there has been flooding. Four people are still missing.

“I think what’s important right now is that we’re all united, that we work shoulder-to-shoulder and cooperate, as we are doing,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told reporters after flying over areas of eastern Spain that have been hit.

The national weather authority said the storm had begun to recede but more than 100 roads remained closed and tens of thousands of students were kept out of school.

Noting that the storm had hit just as the area readied itself for the tourist season, Sanchez said his government had called the emergency meeting to help reestablish normality, guarantee security and address short- and medium-term needs.

The storm tightened its grip on parts of the peninsula on Sunday, unleashing winds of up to 144 kmh (90 mph) and waves up to 13.5 meters (44 feet) high that slammed into seafront shops, wiping out beaches and boardwalks.

Near Barcelona, frothy sea foam carpeted several streets in the small town of Tossa de Mar.

Hundreds of thousands were left without power as the storm covered roads in snow, flooded farmlands and poured saltwater into the Ebro delta in northeastern Spain, swallowing thousands of hectares of rice paddies.

Those killed by the storm ranged from a 69-year old man pulled into the sea by a wave in Catalonia to another who died as hail pounded the greenhouse in the province of Almeria where he had been working.

The prime minister said that while every meteorological phenomenon could not be attributed to climate change, it was evident it was having an impact.

“Public administrations have to reflect on how to shift gears and focus our economic resources and public policies ... on a new element - and that is climate change,” said Sanchez.

Reporting by Paola Luelmo, Emma Pinedo, Nathan Allen and Inti Landauro, writing by Ashifa Kassam; editing by Philippa Fletcher and Timothy Heritage

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