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Monday’s rainfall heaviest in 70 years

Nothing seemed to dampen this man’s determination to reach his destination on Monday. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Nothing seemed to dampen this man’s determination to reach his destination on Monday. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Monday was the wettest day in seven decades as the amount of rain exceeded that which fell during the fatal floods 31 years ago.

In a spooky coincidence, on October 25, 1979, another freak storm hit the island but, unlike Monday’s storm when no one was hurt, four people had died after they were swept away by the torrents.

Just over 102 millimetres of rain fell in Luqa in the 24 hours between Sunday and Monday, making it the second heaviest rainfall since October 26, 1939, when 132 millimetres were registered, according to the Meteorological Office.

About 100 millimetres of rain had poured down during the same span of time in 1979.

So far, a total of 221.6 millimetres of rain was registered in Luqa this month, making it the fifth wettest October since 1947. The highest amount of rainfall was registered in 1951 with a total of 476.5 millimetres, the Met. Office said.

Monday’s torrential rains caused havoc across the island bringing the morning traffic to a standstill and opening up large potholes in various roads. Walls, especially rubble ones, tumbled down and some cars were damaged as they were swept away by the waters.

An undertaker lost 800 coffins to the water that burst through his Qormi warehouse and scattered the wooden caskets along the village’s waterway.

As the island recovered from the aftermath of the storm, people were seen yesterday hanging clothes and carpets out to dry and cleaning away the messy residue of the storm.

Civil Protection Department director Patrick Murgo said his men spent most of Monday carrying out rescue and flood relief operations. Most rescues, that involved helping people out of their water-swept cars, took place between 6 and 8 a.m. with the worst affected areas being Birkirkara, Msida, Gżira, Burmarrad and Qormi.

One rescue that struck him was the case of a van that sunk into the ground when the road caved in under the water’s pressure in Birkirkara. CPD personnel helped out the two men in the van through the back door.

“I could not believe my eyes when I saw a woman in a small car trying to drive through gushing water with a child in the vehicle,” he said. Although she managed to make it through, her behaviour could have ended in disaster.

Unfortunately, Mr Murgo said, people did not realise how dangerous the situation could be. It was a fact that 60 centimetres of water were enough to drag a car, let alone a person.

The deadly power of the water was a lesson learnt 31 years ago when four people died in the 1979 flood.

Vivienne Huntingford, 55, died in her Attard home when her basement flooded.

Anthony Galea, 64, lost his life when the rain dragged his car while he was driving home with his wife and niece. The three left the car but, although the two women were saved, Mr Galea’s lifeless body was found later in a field in Qormi.

The third victim was 51-year-old English tourist, John Herbert Moore, who died after the car he was in was swept away by floods. Another English tourist, Lorraine Wales, died in similar circumstan­ces and her body was found near Salina Bay two days after the storm.

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