The Military Emergencies Unit training at La Pedrera reservoir / M.A.
La waters and shores of La Pedrera reservoir were the scene of frenetic activity on Thursday morning. There were Zodiacs crossing the reservoir back and forth, divers, rescue dogs, helicopters and at least five people who seemed to be in danger in the water.
The tension was high even though all this was only a simulation set up by the Military Emergencies Unit (UME) and the Valencian Government to test their response to a flooding disaster. The simulation was of a large flood caused by a ‘gota fría’ torrential downpour causing the River Segura to burst its banks where it passes through Orihuela and Bigastro, affecting a large part of these municipalities.
The exercise involved 490 people and 144 vehicles from the different security forces. From the soldiers of the Third Emergency Intervention Batallion (BIEM III) to the National Police, Guardia Civil, Alicante Frie Brigade, Navy Diving Centre, Segura Hydrographic Confederation (CHS) and Fire Prevention and Extinction and Rescue Service (SPEIS).
The Vega Baja was chosen for its situation at the start of the rainy season which arrives with the autumn. The county is covered by the Valencian Government’s special plans because it is an area affected by gota frías, which are not as common as forest fires but can cause more damage.
If the Vega Baja were to suffer a flood affecting many municipalities, like the ones in 1982 and 1987, the UME would be prepared to deal with the emergencies resulting from the river bursting its banks. Their response time is four hours, in which time they can deploy teams from their base to the disaster area.
The simulation at La Pedrera lasted more than two hours, with the different teams using their equipment to deal with the effects of heavy rain and acting as they would in a real situation. The UME searched for injured people and bodies in the water and with a dog unit, and then rescued them by air or water.
This was the final exercise of the UME’s week long visit to the Vega Baja, during which 400 soldiers have practised in Orihuela, Redován, Algorfa, Callosa and Bigastro, where they had set up their base of operations during their stay.