Rescuers Collect Flood Victims, Search for More
Aug. 09, 1996
BIESCAS, Spain (AP) _ Rescuers in rubber dinghies searched a reservoir for victims of flash floods that washed away a Pyrenees Mountains campsite, where today the twisted wreckage of campers and cars jutted out from mud and boulders.
In the nearby ski resort of Jaca, an ice rink became a makeshift morgue after Wednesday's flooding at the Virgen de Las Nieves campsite just south of the French border.
The bodies of 65 flood victims, most of them Spaniards, have been found, said Miguel Orduna of the Aragon regional government. Earlier, officials had reported 71 dead, but Orduna said today he could not confirm that figure.
Officials estimated there were still 20 people unaccounted for. There were about 650 campers at the site near Biescas before the flood.
Relatives of the dead, weeping uncontrollably and trying to console each other, came and left the ice rink throughout the morning.
Rescue workers today pulled the body of a woman from the reservoir in Sabinanigo, 9 miles down the River Gallego from the camp site. It was the eighth body carried there by floodwaters.
Working in rubber dinghies, some rescuers sailed the reservoir in search of more victims while others sifted through piles of debris carried by the floodwaters.
At the campsite, only pools remained of the wall of water that crashed down Wednesday night. Mounds of mud and boulders blanketed twisted campers and cars that were scattered in the storm.
Children's sandals and bits of torn clothing were visible amid the mud and rocks.
A Dutch couple and their two children were among those killed, a spokesman at the Dutch Embassy in Madrid said. A French woman also died, officials said.
Many of the bodies were found without clothes, which apparently had been wrenched away by the pummeling water of the flood.
Survivors described how the camp, about the size of two football fields, suddenly was deluged with water, mud and rocks. Cars, tents and people were swept away by fast-moving water that rose more than six feet.
``The water came so quickly and with such force,'' said Edurne Aguado, who broke her foot in the flood. She and her boyfriend survived by clinging to the axle of an overturned car.
Six of the dead were children, news reports said. About 180 people were treated for injuries.
Many survivors said the campsite shouldn't have been built at the bottom of a steep mountain ravine.
``Whoever put this here should take the blame for building this campsite here without worrying what would happen,'' said Samuel Perez, who rode out the flood in his car.
The campsite owners have not commented.
In Jaca, family members have identified 53 victims.
``It's just such a shame, such a tragedy,'' said Paula Lopez, one of many Jaca residents who put up a family of survivors for the night.
Standing alone at the hospital, Alejandro Aravon told how he had spent Thursday shuttling between his sister's recovery room and the morgue to make arrangements for the burial of his 3-year-old niece.
``I can't really talk,'' he said as tears welled in his eyes. ``It's all too much to understand.''