A brief but heavy rainstorm all but brought the islands to a standstill yesterday morning as thousands of drivers were commuting to work in the flooded streets.
As workers and employers alike got stuck around the islands, with the vast majority turning up for work late, the civil protection department had to rescue 50 drivers, some of them in very risky conditions.
The rain started from around 7.15am and continued until around 8am but the amount far surpassed the capacity that can be handled by the road infrastructure. The total rainfall over Malta was over 43mm, with Kercem, Xewkija and Valletta registering the highest amounts according to Malta International Airport’s weather station.
With vehicles forming long, stationary queues spanning for whole kilometres, the inadequacy of some of the new roads was immediately visible as the manhole covers got carried off by the overflowing waters.
Peter Cordina, the director of the Civil Protection Department, said that apart from rescuing drivers, his staff were also helping children reach their schools, particularly in Msida and Balzan, and other people caught in the floods, especially in Marsaskala, Zurrieq, Qormi and Zebbug.
By noon the streets were returning to normal although rubble blocked some of the streets and some areas remained inaccessible by the water.
Cleansing Services Department staff were dispatched around the islands to clean culverts in arterial roads which had been covered with all sorts of litter and debris carried by the rainwater. “Rubble walls along arterial roads which have suffered damages are also being tackled, however, the situation is better than previous years’ rainfalls,” said a spokesman for Minister for Resources and Infrastructure.
“The building of the Qormi-Marsa watercourse has been vital to decrease the flooding which these areas have suffered for years,” the spokesman said. “Seven kilometres of cleansing works in valleys during the hot summer months have also been fruitful to decrease flooding in areas such as Rabat, Attard and Wardija. Meanwhile works are also being carried out by the same ministry at Karwija, limits of Kirkop.”
Minister Ninu Zammit carried out site inspections in valleys together with Works Division officials yesterday morning.
Wilfred Kenely, the Director General of the Federation of Industry, said no reports of workers’ absenteeism had reached his organisation but the working day was mostly disrupted by late arrivals and postponed meetings.
“It’s the usual story, whenever we get the first rainfall it’s chaos,” Kenely said. “I myself had to cancel this morning’s meetings because I could not reach my place of work on time. Most of the disruption is avoidable, in my opinion, if only roads are cleaned up.”
Earlier in the day, Cordina had appealed to people on radio not to get out of home and to avoid the roads most famous for flooding.
“There are some parts where the houses and roads are built wrongly, such as Birkirkara,” Cordina said. “But with some common sense these places can be avoided and we would also avoid a lot of trouble. I think the people are slowly learning what to do in these situations.”
Similar rainstorms are expected on Thursday and Friday.