Tuesday, August 3

Cañada Real: The residents of the Madrid favela fight without heat in a historic snowfall

Days after the heaviest snowfall in 50 years, Madrid woke up Tuesday to its lowest temperatures in decades, with mercury plummeting to minus 10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit).

And the brutal cold has hit Cañada Real Galiana especially hard, one of the largest slums in Europe, where for months more than half of its almost 8,000 inhabitants have had no electricity for heating or light.

Police blame the shortage on illegal cannabis plantations whose lamps, extractors and fans consume so much power that they cause widespread power outages in the surrounding area.

The crisis posed by the power cuts and the cold wave has been denounced by human rights experts from the UN, NGOs and the Oscar-winning Spanish actress Penélope Cruz.

“I’m really mad at the authorities … everyone passes the buck … no one does anything,” says Arribas (pictured below), a 37-year-old mother of three, torch in hand as she returns. to your house where mold covers the walls.

Curled up in a blanket, her seven-year-old daughter Ainara says she always sleeps with her “head under the covers” to protect herself from the cold and damp.

Without electricity, she, her brother, and her sister can’t do any of the online assignments set by their school, and neither the refrigerator nor the washing machine work.

An unofficial settlement built along a 16-kilometer (10-mile) stretch of land that flanks the southeastern section of Madrid’s M50 ring road, Cañada Real is home to a community largely of Moroccan or Gypsy origin. living in extreme conditions.

Built along a former cattle trail, this sprawling shantytown has been around for decades, and this most recent power outage affected some 4,000 residents.

Infants with hypothermia

Without heating, the brutal frost has left many struggling to cope.

On Sunday night, a three-year-old girl was taken to the hospital “with signs of hypothermia,” says Conrado Giménez, director of the NGO Fondacion Madrina, which provides residents with food, blankets and gas bottles.

Fundación Madrina volunteers deliver food packages during a food and goods distribution in sector 6.

A similar case occurred last month and was pointed out by UN human rights experts who warned that power outages were “endangering the health of some 1,800 children” in Cañada Real.

“The children of Cañada Real Galiana are really suffering and their health is at risk,” they said.

“Now that winter is approaching, and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, electricity must be restored.”

Lidia Arribas’s neighbor, Yolanda Martin (pictured below), says she is “more afraid of the cold than of Covid.”

“I wake up in the morning and my blankets have frozen, it’s pitch dark and I can’t take a shower,” says this 47-year-old woman whose lips are blue from cold.

Without work since May, her only source of heat and light is a fireplace in the middle of her house.

“Tonight it will be minus 11 ° C, cold as hell, but we are surviving on what little firewood we have left,” he told AFP.

“We are breaking tables and things that are not worth much to throw into the fire.”

Cannabis farms bleeding power

Two police officers who patrol the area, which is known to supply the capital with drugs, say the power outages are caused by cannabis farms installed in houses in the area.

This week, Spanish energy giant Naturgy, which supplies Cañada Real with free electricity, began cutting power to several suspect homes to get the grid working again.

Neighbors and Pedro del Cura, mayor of Rivas-Vaciamadrid where part of the favela is located, ask that more capacity be provided to the network.

They also fear that electricity could be cut off in homes with no links to drug trafficking.

Despite the cold, Arribas is still hopeful that they will reconnect to the grid so that he can heat the house for his children, whose only consolation these days are the snowball fights in the neighborhood.

“We must not lose hope,” he says, looking down.

“Someone has to listen to us because we can’t go on like this. It’s really very difficult,” he sighs. “It is very sad.”

By Thomas Perroteau of AFP



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