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Torrential rain floods businesses and roads

A lightning strike in the south district, in an image captured by Joelle Baglietto during the lunchtime downpour.

The heavy downpour on Thursday lunchtime led to dramatic scenes across Gibraltar, with some businesses and roads suffering serious flooding and access to the Upper Rock Nature Reserve restricted to residents only over safety concerns.

Among those worst hit by the torrential rain were ground-floor businesses in the ICC, many of which suffered extensive flooding as water gushed through overflowing drains and toilets.

A tenant in the ICC told the Chronicle that this was the second time the shopping centre was flooded due to a heavy downpour in less than a week, with the first happening last Saturday.

Manhole covers within the ICC overflowed causing significant flooding inside the building that affected most businesses on the ground floor.

This happened again for a second time on Thursday with the heavy downpour.

“We thought on Monday [the ICC management] would get a professional to see there are no drainage blockages, and get any maintenance done,” said the tenant, who preferred not to be named.

“Obviously that wasn’t done, it was done by their own people, and that wasn’t sufficient and this big downpour isn’t normal for May either.”

“But there must be a big blockage somewhere that has brought up all this rainwater and sewage back through the manholes and into the units.”

He said businesses were concerned about damage caused to stock, to the property itself, to fixtures and fittings and to specialist equipment used by some businesses.

Not to mention the loss of trade after being forced to close for two days.

The Chronicle reached out to ICC’s management service, who said the matter was being investigated, but that it believes the issue lies with drains outside the ICC.

There was heavy flooding too in the area of Market Place and on some sections of Queensway although, despite heavier traffic, the Royal Gibraltar Police said it had received no reports of incidents on Gibraltar’s roads.

Yesterday, Government technical staff were working to establish what had caused the worst of the flooding.

“Aside from Upper Rock, the main issue has been flooding by Market Place and the ICC,” a spokesman for the Technical Services Department said.

“TSD are currently investigating the cause of this.”

“Other than that, no major incidents considering the very high rainfall in such a short period of time.”

A weather advisory had warned of flash floods across the Rock and an estimated 20 to 25mm of rain expected to have fallen over a period of six hours.

By 3pm yesterday afternoon, the MeteoGib Weather Station recorded 14.6mm, with wind gusts up to 63 kilometre per hour, though conditions had begun to ease toward the evening.

Although the forecast had been for rain, and a weather advisory had further warned of potential flash floods, many people were caught out by the lunchtime downpour, which came accompanied by rolling thunder and lightning.

One resident caught dramatic images of a lightning strike that appeared to have landed on the south district.

Elsewhere, the Upper Rock Nature Reserve was closed to all visitors due to unsafe conditions arising from yesterday’s inclement weather, a spokesman for the Gibraltar Government said yesterday afternoon.

“The Gibraltar Electricity Authority are currently assessing damage caused by lightning strikes that triggered power outages at tourist sites including St Michael’s Cave and the Great Siege Tunnels,” the spokesman added.

“Technical Services are investigating and assessing a number of rock falls across the Reserve.”

“The Department of Environment are also dealing with water ingress to Tovey Cottage.”
Residents were asked to exercise caution when travelling home through the Upper Rock.

“The Department of the Environment are liaising with local tour operators advising them of the unsafe conditions across the Nature Reserve,” the Government spokesman said.

“The area will be re-opened to the public and visitors as soon as it is safe to do so.”

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