The Massive Downpour of 1989

In early September 1989, twenty-three years ago last week, the South-East of the island was surprised by a ferocious Gota Fría, bringing torrential rain and utter devastation with it. Entire stretches of road were swept away, trees were uprooted by the thousands and dragged away, three people were killed when a hotel basement in Portocolom was flooded, hundreds of animals drowned and chaos ensued everywhere. The area around Felanitx and Cas Concos des Cavaller was declared a disaster zone and Reina Sofía (the Spanish Queen) flew in from Madrid to visit the affected area and talk to some of the victims. Rain fell at 06h00 in the morning at a rate of 125 litres per square metre within just 30 minutes. That’s about the same amount of rainfall that one could have expected to fall in one whole year. I had never seen or lived through anything like it in all my life, nor had most Mallorcans.

You may know the mountain of San Salvador, the Felanitx monastery. Believe me if I tell you that twelve rivers originated from that one mountain (many of you would call it a mere hill, at 510 m of altitude) after that rain. One of these rivers passed through Cas Concos, demolished an old country stone bridge and took oak trees of a considerable age with its raging force all the way to the beach of Es Trenc, some 29 kilometres away. Ten days later, no rivers were left, only torrentes, dry riverbeds.

Today’s photo shows the external wall of the Felanitx cemetery. This cemetery filled up, then, like a swimming pool until the Marès built walls could not contain the masses of water any longer nor support the water’s weight. The very walls shown in the picture collapsed in the process and an avalanche of mud and debris swept onto the surrounding fields, including the corpses of four recently buried people. The cemetery of s’Horta was similarly wrecked.

I’m telling you all this because now is the time of the year when the Gota Fría might visit this island. Be alert.

The photo was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: July 23rd, 2012. The time was 13:23:37.

6 responses to “The Massive Downpour of 1989

  1. I was living on top of a hill outside Villafranca and my girlfriend took her mother shopping in Manacor. It took them 11 hours to get back the ten kilometers and they had tales of total devastation. They watched tourists being rescued by helicopter from a coach stranded in the middle of a lake. As you drive around the area and see stretches of obviously new road in low lying areas you can be sure thats a piece that disappeared in 1989

  2. I was staying at the hotel in Porto Colom where the people drowned. I remember being awoken in bed by my mates at around 6am. We were on 1st floor and i remember looking out of the window to see a raging mud torrent where the swimming pool was supposed to be. The water was almost as high as our floor so about 10 feet. People on ground floor were trapped and we fished them out. I also remember using bits of bed to build a bridge between a balcony and side bank to help people escape. Terrifying.

    • Hi Klaus. Thats what happens when building is allowed in supposedly dry torrent beds – which become active every 50 or 100 years.
      I was living on top of a hill outside Vilafranca at the time. My girlfried took her mother , who was staying with us, to Manacor that morning for some shopping.
      It took them 10 hrs to get home trying road after road only to find each one cut off. They saw tourists being rescued by helicopter from a bus stranded in a lake of water. It was a very memorable time and the scars are with us today if you know where to look.

  3. i was in a hotel, im sure it was in solier, the hotel ground floor was about 2 mtrs above the road & we had water up to our waist, watching cars float down the road outside the hotel, will try & find out the name. amazing.

  4. I was staying at Club Cecilia when It happened, I remember the torrent of water coming down past the hotel, Brown mud. The Kids club where we were later supposed to go to and under ground was totally flooded. We were very lucky!
    After the water had subsided I remember the devastation it caused. A rescue mission at a hotel that’s breakfast was being served below ground level, being informed that there were people trapped, feared dead in there. I also remember looking for the camp site that we had seen situated at the top end of the bay that had been seemingly sweeped away, wondering what had happened to its occupants. Seeing cars washed into the sea and just shear devastations.
    Everything was dirty and layered by the brown silt from the water. The sea was brown and extreamly rough.
    I remember being told we were to stay in the resort, which had no electricity as there was no way of getting us out, roads had been destroyed and trees uprooted. We ate by candle light until after a couple of days we were transferred to the resort of Cala Millor.
    I remember the journey out of Porto Colom, the damage, I remember seeing a broken bridge in Porto Cristo.
    It was an awful experience but we were one of the lucky ones

    • You were very lucky indeed, Debbie. It’s the most devastation I have ever seen with my own eyes. Charges were brought to court against the hotel in Portocolom where three employees lost their lives but I don’t remember any verdict against the culprits, mainly politicians and blue collar professionals. Oh well, what’s new?
      Praise your lucky stars.

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