Fortune smiled on the tiny village of Cortes de Pallás and at least 70 people who were working at the hydro-electricity plant on the River Cabriel on Monday evening, when a massive rock fall cut off the village but only one person suffered minor injuries.
The incident occurred at 19.30 on Monday on a 300-metre stretch of the CV-428 road which runs between the village and the bridge over the reservoir, when tons of rocks and earth fell next to the tunnel which provides access to the south-eastern end of the bridge. The rubble crushed the post occupied by the electricity plant’s security guard, who was the one to suffer slight injuries.
Those inside the plant were unaware of the incident until the lights went out in the gallery where water is pumped from the deposit on the peak of the Muela de Cortes. They were evacuated via the alternative accesses to the kilometre-long tunnel, emerging through emergency exits over the next few hours, and electricity company Iberdrola has decided that no further activity will take place at the plant, which is the largest of its kind in Europe, until the causes of the rock fall have been established: this is likely to take a few days, according to company employees, but the electricity supply in the area should not be affected.
Several pylons were brought down by the rock slide, a series of explosions followed, and damage was caused to the pre-fabricated huts which serve as an emergency medical area.
The Mayor of Cortes de Pallás, Alberto Enrique Sáez Serrano, reports that there were 148 millimetres of rainfall between 18th and 24th March, and similar incidents have been reported along the same road in the last few weeks although none of them as spectacular as this one. Sr Sáez now heads a Town Hall which is dealing with a “crisis situation” as locals and Iberdrola employees recover from the shock and count their blessings that no-one was hurt.
Emergency services worked throughout Tuesday morning to ensure that no-one had been buried under the fallen rocks, but fortunately, despite this being a popular area for weekend excursions, it was confirmed that tragedy had been averted, and measures are now in place to cordon the area off due to the risk of further slides.
A study will now be made of the mountainside to ascertain whether work is necessary to shore it up, and in the meantime work began on Wednesday to provide an alternative route into and out of Cortes de Pallás by adapting a forest track. In this way basic supplies such as food and petrol can be guaranteed, and the children in the village can continue to go to school along a 20-kilometre route which currently takes 90 minutes.
All Text and Images are Subject to Copyright