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Joan Collins THOUSANDS of passenger suitcases remained at the check in area in Palma airport over the weekend after the electronic system was knocked out by lightning. The lightning strike cut the electricity causing the back up generators to go into action. However, this caused a complete failure in the automated luggage transport system, which meant that some 30 flights to Europe and the Spanish mainland, that were due to leave between 7.30 and 9.45pm, had serious difficulties checking in their passengers cases. The affected airlines contacted their passengers at the check in to tell them that, in order to avoid even more delays to their flight's take off time, they could leave their cases in the airport and they would get them during the next three days, certainly by Wednesday. The baggage handling companies were also overwhelmed by this event and the whole operation nearly ground to a halt. This was because there were between 2'500 and 3'000 cases which had been left all over the check in area and these had to be put on other flights to each passenger's destination. Iberia Handling and Ineuropa Handling, the two concessionary companies of the handling service, were the ones most affected by the situation which was primarily caused by the lightning strike, and then the subsequent collapse of the automated luggage transport system. The incident was described by AENA (the Spanish Airports Authority) as “regrettable, but accidental and outside the normal operation of the airport”. The number of passengers affected by this incident, according to the airlines, amounted to more than 4'500 (mainly foreigners). The situation returned to normal around midnight on Saturday. The Meteorological Centre in Palma, for their part, said that no more storms of the force which caused Saturday's events are expected. However, they said that they are expecting torrential rain in some parts of the island. This happened over the weekend in the town of Sa Cabaneta where 48.7 litres per square metre fell in just one hour (from 4 to 5pm).