THE Balearic government's Interior ministry held a meeting yesterday with all organisations responsible for setting up emergency procedures to cope with the effects of the torrential rainfall that is expected after such a prolonged period of heat. Minister José María Rodríguez warned following the meeting that although right at this moment there is no red alert, the high temperatures of this summer could lead to storms of great intensity, so apart from the cleaning of torrents (water courses) already ordered by the Ministry of the Environment, it was decided yesterday to review the culvert and road drainage systems. Rodríguez drew attention to the unusual circumstances of this meeting in that it was taking place in August. He also pointed to the unprecedented gathering of public and private organisations who had never before been invited to attend these preparatory meetings. He mentioned that present at yesterday's meeting were representatives from: the central government representative's office in the Balearics, Civil Protection Units, the Meteorological Centre of the Balearics, Coastal departments, Armed Forces and State security corps, the three Island Councils, the City Councils of Palma and Manacor, a local traders' association and national power and telephone companies, amongst others. Other government ministries represented were the Environment, Economy and Tax Affairs, Agriculture and Fisheries, Tourism, Public Works, Housing and Transport, and Health and Consumer Issues. The Environment chief reminded the assembly that the surface temperature of the sea around the Balearic Islands is currently some 29 degrees celsius, which represents a notable increase in the average sea water temperaure of previous summers with the associated risk of sudden cold spells, the gota fría which usually brings storms and torrential rains.
Everything that can be done by way of preparation for possible heavy storms is not enough, Rodriguez insisted and announced that meetings such as the one held yesterday will be carried out periodically. He highlighted problems that will require medium term solutions such as the reinforcement of torrents (water courses) or the insufficiency of water channels in certain areas. He confirmed that another outcome of yesterday's symposium was the plan to create an Office for Central Information and Co-ordination in the case of a red alert situation being created by heavy rains. The cabinet would consist of representatives from the Interior department, the Meteorologial Centre and the central government representative's office. According to the degree of seriousness of the red alert, the cabinet would put into effect the agreed emergency contingency plans. Rodríguez touched upon the issue of the Island Councils being committed to revising road drainage systems, especially those that were undergoing some kind of repair or reform. The Manacor council will make an assessment of the risks of the torrent that crosses the town. The water course is currently undergoing maintenance work which could possibly provide unforeseen problems in the event of an uncontrollable cloudburst. Although he avoided making direct comment on the work of the previous government, Rodriguez said that preventative work should have been more seriously addressed on a continuous basis.