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Schools shut, supplies affected as Madrid clears record snow

Monday, January 11th 2021, 5:45 pm - Residents of Madrid, which saw its heaviest snowfall in at least 50 years, helped police open paths through deep banks of snow using plywood boards or trays.

By Cristina Sanchez and Belén Carreño

MADRID (Reuters) - Schools in Madrid remained shut, some supermarkets ran out of fresh produce and few cars were on the streets on Monday as officials urged people to stay home after a huge snow storm hit the Spanish capital and several regions over the weekend.

However, most flights and trains, including the high-speed link to Barcelona, have resumed operations.

While many people enjoyed the rare snowfall by skiing in the centre of Madrid and holding mass snowball fights, a further cold spell was set to turn the snow into ice this week and authorities rushed to clear more streets.

2021-01-11T102336Z 1 LYNXMPEH0A0JV RTROPTP 4 SPAIN-WEATHER A worker cleans snow from a table outside her coffee shop after heavy snowfall in Madrid, Spain, January 11, 2021. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

They said, though, that it could take one or two weeks to complete, and snow ploughs only managed to clear a single lane on some avenues because of fallen trees blocking their path.

"It's necessary to avoid any trip not considered essential or unavoidable," Interior Ministry Fernando Grande-Marlaska told a press briefing, adding that the cold spell and icy conditions expected would be very dangerous for vehicles and pedestrians.

Residents of Madrid, which saw its heaviest snowfall in at least 50 years, helped police open paths through deep banks of snow using plywood boards or trays.

PHOTOS: Madrid, Spain begins to dig out after historic snowfall

With blocks of melting snow occasionally falling from rooftops, police cordoned off some pavements, and residents took to walking in the middle of the road.

The Madrid regional government delayed until Jan. 18 the reopening of schools, citing the difficulty of accessing them and the damage some suffered.

VACCINATIONS AFFECTED

The storm, which dumped up to 50 cm (20 inches) of snow on Madrid, has hampered Spain's efforts to increase the pace of its coronavirus vaccination programme amid rising infections.

A new batch of vaccines meant to land in Madrid was diverted on Monday to Vitoria-Gasteiz in the north, but city authorities said vaccinations in nursing homes and hospitals continued as planned.

2021-01-11T102336Z 1 LYNXMPEH0A0JW RTROPTP 4 SPAIN-WEATHER A worker shovels snow from the entrance of a building after heavy snowfall in Madrid, Spain, January 11, 2021. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

Access to two factories in Madrid operated by pharmaceutical company Rovi, which handles the final stages of production for Moderna's recently approved vaccine before its export across Europe, were blocked by snow, Reuters TV footage showed.

Rovi declined to comment.

Spain's Defence Minister Margarita Robles said the military would disinfect nursing homes, citing a fear that the storm could increase the spread of the coronavirus.

Two runways at Madrid's Barajas international airport and a terminal re-opened, authorities said, although over a hundred flights had been cancelled.

A Reuters reporter saw a number of empty shelves at several central Madrid supermarkets.

The Spanish supermarket association urged customers to behave responsibly in view of a "complicated situation" in many storm-affected areas. But it said supplies had resumed in the early hours on Monday and were gradually increasing.

Mercamadrid, the city's main wholesale food market, said convoys of trucks which had been stranded in the snow since Friday had started arriving and that it was preparing to resume activity from Monday night.

2021-01-11T102336Z 1 LYNXMPEH0A0JT RTROPTP 4 SPAIN-WEATHER (1) A worker cleans snow from a table outside her coffee shop after heavy snowfall in Madrid, Spain, January 11, 2021. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

About 85% of bars and restaurants in Madrid that had been open despite COVID-19 are still closed because of the weather, the Hosteleria de España association said.

The cold wave, with temperatures as low as -10 degrees Celsius in central Spain, will last until Thursday, the Aemet meteorological agency said.

($1 = 0.8223 euros)

(Reporting by Guillermo Martinez, Elena Rodriguez, Ingrid Melander, Cristina Sanchez, Belen Carreno, Inti Landauro, Clara-Laeila Laudette, Emma Pinedo and Joan Faus; Writing by Ingrid Melander, Andrei Khalip and Joan Faus; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky, Gareth Jones and Mike Collett-White)

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