Saturday, July 31

UME, from disasters at the end of the world to deploying snow plows in La Castellana




The chaos of the 2018 snowfall on the AP-6, when the Army had to rescue thousands of trapped in the toll road between Segovia and Ávila that did not close despite the warnings, has been the most useful lesson that has been applied on the M-40 in Madrid. Who was going to say it. The Military Emergency Unit (UME), tanned in a thousand mountain disasters, fires, floods and other scenarios of the end of the world, deployed in the capital to make way in urban belts, between skyscrapers, at the stroke of a sapper. On the Paseo de la Castellana, a golden mile and artery in the heart of Spain, unusually buried in ice.

The AP-6 is recalled by the Chief of Communication of the Unit, Aurelio Soto, to say that from going below zero to pull people out of stranded cars up to half the door in frozen avalanches, you already know something. “It is an extraordinary situation, but I do not think we can say that we are overwhelmed … although we are working very hard,” he summarized in full rage of the storm. Without removing gravity. It is convenient to think about the size of the task: «In an earthquake, you clear a kilometer and it remains clear unless there is an aftershock, and a building that falls will not fall again … but in a snowfall like the one that we have found in Madrid, you advance and where you have passed the snow is accumulating again ». It closes your way again and you have to clean where you have already cleaned. There is nothing.

The activation of the UME in Madrid occurs at midnight on Friday. Vehicles blocked in the A-3, A-4 and A-5 of the Community, and M-30, M-40, M-45 and M-50, caught many times without minimum fuel to keep the engine running and survive with heating. These are agonizing moments. The battalion leaves from Torrejón de Ardoz (Madrid), then that of Ferral del Bernesga, in León.

The first thing before a bagging is to be able to open a path to be able to enter the frozen traffic jam and give emergency assistance. Blankets, water, something warm, take the children, the elderly. It is not the inhospitable white pampas of the AP-6, but the mouth of a tunnel on Calle 30 that looks like winter in Toronto. Never seen. Behind they have to access the snow plows, engineering machines, the fire engines. It is therefore necessary to move the cars to shoulders and mediums pushing, including the drivers, which literally requires removing quintals of snow that grab the underside and bury the wheels. You have to hit the shovel, the UME also brings them. And what has been said, as you clear a section, the snowfall is blinding it again.

Twelve hours after starting the operation, Saturday noon, 1,500 people have been released in Madrid. We will have to wait another seven for the authorities to notify that no one is blocked on any road in the region.

The snowplow drags along the Castellana that has become a tundra landscape. It is one of the photos for the history of this national episode. There are cars thrown here and there, abandoned by their owners as they were seen cornered, which will make it difficult for the UME to travel and the next mission, to regain access to hospitals. The first, the military Gómez Ulla, then the Gregorio Marañón, La Paz … also Mercamadrid, a vital supply station for inland Spain.

The 98 troops initially activated in Madrid there are more than 200 after the first 24 hours and yesterday they added about 600, a quarter of them delivered to clear the airport runways. Those who have just operated in Yeste, Albacete province, come from Zaragoza, and on Sunday afternoon 33 more leave Seville with heavy excavators to support the work.

Together with the UME, those of the Army take to the streets. This is a curious life in recent months, in which the military has been seen not once, but twice, deployed in a big way in the center of Madrid. As in the years of black and white. The first was in March, due to the confinement. Yesterday they were used, among others, to transfer kidney patients to their respective dialysis centers and the Parachute Brigade launched the Vamtac jeeps to take 63 air traffic controllers to Barajas. An operation typical of a theater of war.

At the UME, everything has to be said, their prominence hurries them. The chief spokesperson, also the press officer, Captain Manuel González, they do not spin four sentences without saying that they are not acting alone. Civil Guard, National Police, Civil Protection, Firefighters, municipal services, Red Cross … that without them would not have been “capable of dealing with the situation.” The one to fix the chaos of the AP-6 but in Madrid, via Paseo de la Castellana.

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