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Fear, indignation among tourists in Majorca after floods

Gordana Rojko was holidaying in Majorca when raging waters swept past her hotel, trapping her and her husband inside for hours, one of scores of tourists left reeling by deadly flash floods in the Spanish island.

At least three of the 12 people who died were foreigners — a British couple and an elderly Dutch woman — after intense rain on Tuesday caused riverways to overflow on this Balearic island that relies heavily on tourists, especially Germans and Britons.

Two bodies discovered Thursday could be those of a missing German couple.

In the wake of the disaster, tourists recalled their fear and helplessness, with some angry at having their holiday disrupted.

– ‘Terribly angry’ –

“We couldn’t get out for seven hours”,” said Rojko, who lives in Germany and was visiting S’Illot, a badly-hit coastal town.

Her hotel is right next to the mouth of a river that had become a raging, overflowing torrent.

Rojko and her husband Robert let a British family with small children stay with them in their room as they were on the third floor, at a safe distance from the water that rose to the first storey.

“We’re very disappointed, nobody came to ask for us. And we were surrounded by water,” she told AFP, accusing hotel employees of inaction.

Robert, her 65-year-old husband who has visited Majorca every year since 1975, recalled the feeling of imminent danger and fear.

He said management was non-existent and receptionists did not speak English or German, making it difficult to understand what was going on.

For her part, Denise Browes, a British retiree in her 70s, said she was “terribly angry.”

“I paid 400 pounds (460 euros), there’s no swimming pool, no entertainment… there’s nothing,” due to the effects of the flood, she added.

In another hotel nearby, the Playa Moreia, the terrace is closed and the restaurant, on the ground floor, is full of mud, chairs and tables piled on top of each other.

Henriette Kruip, the hotel’s Dutch manager, said they were forced to close on Wednesday as they “didn’t have water, light or phones working, no computers, no lifts, nothing.”

When the flash floods swept by, there were some 300 customers at the hotel, most of them German and Britons, and the restaurant was full.

Employees had to evacuate people fast, even if “the tourists didn’t realise the danger and told us: ‘hey, we’re having dinner’.”

Among the customers were Helmut and Anneliese Andler, a retired German couple holidaying with their grandchildren.

“We saw two cars go down the river, we’ve never seen this,” said Helmut as he packed up his car to head to the island’s capital Palma de Majorca with the family.

He said they would have to pay an additional night in another hotel.

“We’re a little angry,” said his wife, with a resigned smile.

– Shops, pubs closed –

The floods also hit local shops and restaurants hard too, forcing them to close earlier than they would have done in an island that lives off tourism.

Everywhere, English- and German-language menus are on display.

Guillem Mayol, who manages a bar with a terrace, said he probably lost “20,000 euros ($23,000) or more.”

“We’ve lost our equipment — the cold room, oven, dishwasher, appliances…”

Nearby, Antonia Puigros estimated her clothes shop would be closed for a week.

The racks were all empty as she and others cleaned the place.

“We can throw away all the wooden furniture,” she said.

Luckily though, the clothes were spared as they were higher up.

As with other flood-hit areas, people were cleaning up the mud to try and get back to normal as fast as possible.

That’s what Doris Holstz did, a German woman who has lived in Majorca for 16 years and co-owns a pub in S’Illot with her husband.

“Yesterday we cleaned for eight hours, it was horrible,” she said, estimating she lost 2,000 euros.

Still, she’s opening the pub again on Thursday.