Hospital staff trek 20km to work through heavy snow in Spain as emergency convoys deliver vaccines and food

Health workers were forced to walk for hours to get to the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic after a deadly snowstorm cut off hundreds of roads in central Spain.

Tributes were paid on social media to doctors and nurses who hiked and jogged long distances to work in Madrid despite the dangerous conditions which have killed at least four people.

Among those praising their dedication was Spain’s health minister Salvador Illa, who tweeted: “The commitment that the entire group of health workers is showing is an example of solidarity and dedication.”

With Storm Filomena bringing the heaviest snowfall in decades, the government announced police would escort emergency convoys of Covid vaccines and food supplies to affected areas.

“The commitment is to guarantee the supply of health, vaccines and food. Corridors have been opened to deliver the goods,” transport minister Jose Luis Abalos said.

Around 500 roads were affected by the rare blizzard which dumped up to 20 inches of snow across central Spain between Friday night and Saturday, leaving an estimated 1,500 people stranded in their cars.

Hundreds of travellers were trapped at Madrid’s Barajas airport while about 100 workers and shoppers spent two nights sleeping at a shopping centre in Majadahonda, a town north of Madrid.

Emergency crews slowly cleared the snow throughout Sunday, and train services from Madrid resumed during the afternoon, although the high-speed line linking Madrid with Barcelona remained out of operation. The airport restarted departure flights on Sunday evening, with arrivals due to begin by Monday morning. Around 150 roads remained impassable on Sunday.

The four deaths blamed on the storm included a man and a woman who drowned in a car drowned after a river burst near Malaga in the south, and two homeless people who froze to death in Madrid and Calatayud, according to officials.

Forecasters have warned of dangerous conditions in the coming days, with temperatures expected to fall to as low as -14C next week.

“The danger is not over,” Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Markaska said. “A week of extreme cold is coming and that will transform all the snow on the ground in to ice, thereby multiplying the risk. The storm is bringing with it a cold wave that could push temperatures down to record levels.”

The province of Teruel remained under red alert for intense snowfall, while large areas of eastern Aragon and Catalonia also were under alert for wintry weather. More than 6,000 were left without power in some villages in Catalonia.

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