Easter processions cancelled in southern Spain due to rainstorms

<span>People shelter from the rain under umbrellas as the San Bernardo brotherhood procession is cancelled due to rain in Seville.</span><span>Photograph: Cristina Quicler/AFP/Getty</span>
People shelter from the rain under umbrellas as the San Bernardo brotherhood procession is cancelled due to rain in Seville.Photograph: Cristina Quicler/AFP/Getty

Easter processions in southern Spain have been cancelled after heavy rain from Storm Nelson, as the country was hit by strong winds and four people drowned on its storm-battered coasts.

All of the big processions in Seville on Holy Thursday were cancelled because of the rainstorms that were otherwise welcome in a region that has been experiencing a severe drought.

The processions of the Nazarenes, famous for their purple, pointed hoods, were also cancelled in Huelva and Cádiz.

In a week-long event that attracts tens of thousands to the city, members of more than 70 brotherhoods and religious guilds parade through Seville’s streets bearing heavy pasos, or floats, depicting Christ’s passion. The pasos can weigh as much as a tonne.

Each procession, which can last up to 12 hours, sets out from one of the more than 100 churches in the city and passes through Seville Cathedral before returning to its starting point.

Visitors who have paid thousands of euros to rent balconies along the route face a disappointing week, with rain forecast in Seville right through to Easter Sunday.

Four people drowned on Thursday as Storm Nelson battered Spain’s coasts, two in Asturias in the north-west and two in the east coast city of Tarragona, where a teenage boy and a man who ran into the sea to save him both drowned.

Related: UK Easter weather and travel: ferries hit by winds as getaway begins for millions

Just as Easter signals the start of the holiday season, the storms have washed away much of the sand on Barcelona’s beaches, exposing rocks and drains, while smaller beaches along the Maresme, to the north of the city, have disappeared altogether. In the past, beaches have been replenished with sand dredged from estuaries, but this is increasingly viewed as a futile exercise as the sand washes away in the first winter storm.

With some longed-for rain falling over the past few days and more forecast over the weekend, there is hope that the prolonged drought in Catalonia is coming to an end.

After three years of scant rainfall, reservoirs are now up to 16% capacity, the cut-off point for a state of emergency.

However, Patrícia Plaja, a spokesperson for the Catalan government, said the government was not going to make hasty decisions as there was no point lifting restrictions if they had to be reapplied shortly afterwards.

She said: “It’s one thing having reserves at 16% in May, when we are on the threshold of what is predicted to be a dry summer.”