FLASH FLOOD
Reader's Digest India|October 2021
Within seconds, the car carrying four Dutch tourists was swept down the hillside by the raging waters
Simon Hemelryk

Marjon van Eijk was incredibly excited. The 57-year-old from Oss in the Netherlands had just landed on the Spanish island of Mallorca with her family for the dream wedding of her daughter Iris. She knew it was going to be very special.

The intimate ceremony with just 21 guests was happening the next day, 10 October 2018, at a stunning villa up in the hills near the picturesque town of Sant Llorenç des Cardassar, just under an hour’s drive from the airport. “I can’t wait for the barbecue tonight, never mind the wedding,” Marjon told her mother, Bets.

Bets was a sharp, warm-hearted 84-year-old, but she wasn’t in the best of health. A year earlier, she’d had to have emergency surgery on a perforated intestine and now wore a colostomy bag. Hip problems meant she had to walk with crutches. But she was thrilled to be attending her 24-year-old granddaughter Iris's wedding in such an amazing setting. The family had brought along a nurse, Marjon Theunissen, to help her.

The three women and Marjon van Eijk’s husband, Pieterjan, walked out of the airport at around 6 p.m. and into a rental car. Iris and her fiancé, Coen, were waiting at the beautiful property up in the hills, thrilled at the prospect of sharing such a magical event with the ones they loved.

On the road to Sant Llorenç, the family gazed at Mallorca’s rugged countryside, with its rolling, rocky slopes peppered by wispy grasses and low green trees. As they crossed the hilly landscape, the evening was drawing in and rain was falling heavily. But that didn’t detract from the beauty of the island, off Spain’s eastern coast. They chatted happily. Pieterjan, a quiet but funny, intelligent historian, kept them amused with witty observations from the driver’s seat.

They had no inkling that the rainfall—more than 230 mm (nine inches) would fall that day—had already reached dangerous levels.

As they drove beyond the town of Sant Llorenç and up the winding road around 804 metres into the hills, the rain got harder and the sky grew darker. They were approaching a bridge over what was normally a small stream when, without warning, a wave of dirty, fast moving water washed over the top of it.

Within seconds, the torrent had lifted the little white car into the now raging river and sent it surging down the hillside.

It all happened so quickly that Marjon and her family were too shocked even to scream. As the car lurched and spun through the water, its roof scraping the underside of a couple of bridges, they clutched the seats and doors in numb disbelief.

The flood carried the car back through Sant Llorenç, which was now engulfed by several metres of water. On and on the vehicle went, into scrubland a few hundred metres south of the town where, finally, it caught on a submerged object in the middle of the torrent.

Marjon, the mother of the bride, felt water swilling round her feet and looked down. Muddy brown flood water was pouring into the car and rising quickly. Although fairly small and bespectacled, she was a strong person with a big heart, always determined to protect her family. Sitting in the backseat with her mother's nurse, she knew they all had to get out quickly before the waters rose too high in the car and they all drowned.

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