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Death toll rises to 12 in Majorca floods

The death toll from flash floods that hit Spain’s holiday island of Majorca rose to 12 on Thursday as information about the Spanish, German, Dutch and British victims began to emerge after they were identified.

An elderly British couple, their Spanish taxi driver and a holidaying German journalist on his way to the airport were among those who died as intense rain caused riverbeds to overflow with raging waters that tore through streets and swept cars away on Tuesday.

Rescue workers were still searching for a missing five-year-old boy who had been in a car with his mother and sister when they were hit by a barrage of water.

His sister survived, reportedly helped to safety by their mother, who died.

A massive clean-up was under way in the mud-covered streets of Sant Llorenc des Cardassar, one of the worst-hit towns, with excavation machines clearing streets of debris.

Soldiers used shovels to clear the thick mud from the streets of the town, 60 kilometres (40 miles) east of the island’s capital of Palma.

Locals tried to recover lost valuables from the wreckage of their homes with the help of volunteers.

Some 900 emergency services workers were involved in the clean-up operation and the search for the missing boy, the public administration minister in the regional government of the Balearic Islands, Catalina Caldera, told reporters.

After Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s visit to the disaster zone in the island popular with foreigners, King Felipe VI and his wife Letizia were due to visit on Friday, a source at the royal palace told AFP, requesting anonymity.

– Knee-high floodwaters –

In total emergency services say seven men and five women were killed.

The British couple and a Dutch woman were among the dead.

The elderly couple were travelling in a taxi which got swept away by floodwaters, the central government spokesman said.

They were reportedly on their way to their hotel in the east coast fishing town of Cala Bona after landing at Palma airport.

Muddy waters rushed down roads, houses were flooded and vehicles piled up on top of each other, video footage showed.

“This is a disaster,” said Antonio Galmes Riera, 55, as he used a big bucket to remove mud from his home with the help of two other men.

A damaged sofa and chair along with a basket of household objects which he will have to throw out sat outside the door of the home.

Marks on the walls showed floodwaters reached up to a height of at least a metre (three feet).

“I had very valuable stuff here. Look at this clock, it was worth over 2,000 euros ($2,300),” Riera told AFP as he pointed to an antique wall clock covered in mud.

Cati Morey, who has a beauty salon in Sant Llorenc, said they had to throw out furniture and “are trying to save everything we can”.

– Nadal in minute of silence –

The regional government declared three days of mourning.

Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal joined in a minute of silence at his academy in the neighbouring town of Manacor.

Spain’s central government “has taken the first steps to ensure that those affected receive the necessary help as soon as possible,” government spokeswoman Isabel Celaa told reporters.

Last year, 13.8 million foreign tourists visited the Balearic Islands, according to official statistics. The biggest numbers came from Germany and Britain.

Many more foreigners live in the archipelago.

Environmental group Ecologistas en Accion said “the tragedy in Sant Llorenc could have been avoided” if laws banning building in floodplains had been respected.

Meanwhile in southern France at least two people died when several cars were swept away by flash floods triggered by heavy rain Wednesday night, authorities said.