Residents have been urged to stay home as heavy rain and flooding hit Portugal

LISBON, December 13 (Reuters) – Heavy rain battered parts of the Iberian Peninsula on Tuesday, flooding roads, sweeping away cars and forcing authorities in Portugal to close some roads and mobilize armed forces to help with the clean-up effort.

The Lisbon mayor’s office put the city on a “red” alert, urging people to stay home and avoid commuting to the capital at the mouth of the Tagus River.

Since midnight, the Civil Protection Agency has reported almost 1,500 incidents across Portugal, mainly in Lisbon and the districts of Santarem, Portalegre and Evora, including flooded roads, tunnels, train stations and shops.

A spokesman for the armed forces said civilian authorities had asked for help pumping out water in flooded areas.

Schools in Oeiras, part of the Lisbon district, have been closed and students have been sent home.

The Tagus River contingency plan has been activated, meaning it is at risk of overflowing.

Weather agency IPMA said the rain was likely to remain “heavy and persistent” for the rest of the day.

The mayor’s office said earlier Tuesday that city buses and trams were not operating, the subway was not fully operational and some stations were inaccessible due to flooding.

Adverse weather conditions also brought the greater Lisbon area to a standstill last Wednesday when a person died in a flooded basement.

Supermarket owner Elia Santos, 33, said water entered her store in Alges near Lisbon last week but “this time it was worse” and estimated she lost at least €6,000 in damages, not counting the electrical appliances.

“All is lost,” said Artur Rosa, 57, whose real estate office was flooded for the second time in less than a week.

“It’s total destruction – the window is broken, the furniture is all destroyed, all … we have to keep the documentation for 10 years.”

Heavy rains hit other parts of the country on Tuesday, with the IPMA issuing an “orange” weather alert in all but one of the mainland counties.

Neighboring Spain was also affected, with the second-highest level of emergency imposed in the central-western region of Extremadura. Heavy rain caused a road to collapse and a group of ten had to be rescued.

Lisbon City Hall has been criticized for failing to build flood prevention infrastructure over the years. Mayor Carlos Moedas said work to build a 5km drainage tunnel should begin soon.

“You have to think about the infrastructure – it’s a long-term problem,” says Stefani Nolasco, 23, manager of a flooded restaurant in Alges.

Reporting by Pedro Nunes, Sergio Goncalves, Catarina Demony and Patricia Vicente Rua in Lisbon; Additional coverage by Emma Gonzalez in Madrid; Edited by Andrei Khalip and Janet Lawrence

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Catarina Demonie

Thomson Reuters

Portugal-based multimedia correspondent covering politics, economy, environment and daily news. Previous experience in local journalism in the UK. Co-founder of a project telling the stories of Portuguese speakers living in London and editor of a youth-run news site.

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