Spain – Rain Triggers Deadly Floods and Landslides in Navarre

At least 2 people have died after heavy rain caused floods and landslides in the Navarre region of northern Spain.

Floods in Pamplona, Spain, 10 December 2021. Photo: Ayuntamiento de Pamplona

Parts of northern Spain have seen heavy rainfall since late November 2021, when floods prompted rescues in Asturias and Cantabria and later the Basque Region.

Further heavy rain accompanied by the thawing of snow at higher altitudes fell from around 09 December 2021, triggering floods in the Navarre (also Navarra) region. On 09 December the region’s government activated the pre-emergency level due to the threat of floods from rising rivers including the Ebro, Ega, Bidasoa and Arga.

As of 10 December, the government reported that the swollen Bidasoa river caused flooding in Elizondo, Baztan and Sunbilla and that some riverside communities along the Arga river were also affected, including the Pamplona neighbourhoods of Rochapea, San Jorge and Txantrea, and the towns of Huarte, Villava and Burlata. Dozens of people were evacuated from a care home in the municipality of Aranzadi in Pamplona, after the Arga broke its banks on 10 December. By 11 December the swollen Ebro river had caused flooding in Tudela.

Flooded roads left some communities isolated. Floods affected two main highways – the N-121-A at the height of the Belate and Almandoz tunnels; and the N-135, in the Puerto de Erro. Likewise, around thirty secondary roads were blocked by floods, landslides or snow.

One fatality was reported after a landslide in the village of Sunbilla. One man was reported missing and later found dead after being swept away by the flooding Bidasoa river in Elizondo.

On 12 December, President of Navarre region María Chivite said a total of 74 municipalities have been affected and announced she will request the central government to declare a natural disaster which would allow access to the aid granted by both the Spanish government and the European Union.

Floods in Pamplona, Spain, 10 December 2021. Photo: Ayuntamiento de Pamplona

Rivers and Rainfall

According to figures from Spain’s Meteorological Agency (AEMET), in a 24 hour period to 09 December, Bera in Navarre recorded 126.2 mm of rain and Roncesvalles 92.6 mm. The following day Roncesvalles saw a further 134.2 mm, while Luzaide recorded 91.8 mm and Esteribar 82.8 mm.

The Arga in Pamplona reached 4.80 metres 10 December, while the Ebro River in Castejón reached 7.94 metres as of 11 December. The government of Navarra said the Ebro at Tudela reached 6.17 metres on 12 December, higher than during the floods of 2015 where it reached 5.85 metres.

As of 13 December, red alerts remained in place for the Ebro at Castejon and the Arga at Larraun. An orange alert was in place for the Ebro Alto at Logroño in La Rioja region, and further south at Zaragoza, capital of Aragon region where levels stood at 4.71 metres and rising, as of 13 December.

Levels of the Arga river at Pamplona, Spain, December 2021. Image: Government of Navarre
Levels of the Ebro River at Castejón, Spain, December 2021. Image: Government of Navarre