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European news: Rainstorms kill 31 in southern Spain and Portugal

More than 20 people died in Spain and at least 11 in Portugal yesterday after torrential rainstorms ravaged the southern part of both countries. In Spain the region of Extremadura, near the Portuguese border, was worst affected, with roads and railways cut and electricity and telephone lines down.

Extremadura's regional governor called for the area to be declared a disaster zone and urged people not to drive on the motorways, which had turned into rivers. Andalucia was also badly affected, with the fishing fleet confined to port and the River Guadalquivir near Cadiz 15 metres higher than usual and on the point of bursting its banks. Seville and Cordoba were among the towns devastated by storm damage.

Army units were mobilised to help people trapped in their homes and to clear the forest of fallen trees that lay strewn across the country. Forecasters said the 100kph rainstorms would gradually ease off, but that strong westerly winds would continue.