Woman’s Spanish home washed away

A FORMER Strabane woman whose entire home was washed away during a devastating flood in Spain, says she remains extremely traumatised by the catastrophe.

Liesl Cavender (née Shaw) says she still feels like a “zombie” after she lost her home, all her worldly possessions and four of her pet cats in the disaster. 

Following a recent storm that dumped record-breaking amounts of rain on the city of Orihuela in the Vega Baja region of the Costa Blanca, the River Segura burst its banks. Unfortunately for Liesl and her husband, Richard, this eruption happened close to their home.

“The devastation around here has been incredible,” Liesl (49) remarked. “It was supposed to be a ‘medicane’, a Mediterranean hurricane, which I’d never heard of. But it’s been categorised as a catastrophe.

“I feel overwhelmed and physically and emotionally exhausted. It happened over a week ago now, but we’re still walking around like zombies.”

On Friday September 13 the duo were evacuated from their home by Spanish police due to the risk of flooding, following days of unprecedented rain. Forced to leave their home at short notice, they were only able to take their passports and their two rescue dogs with them, leaving – literally – everything else they owned, behind. They were still unable to return home the following day (Saturday) and on Sunday morning the unthinkable happened. A river wall failed resulting in millions of gallons of flood water crashing through their home, demolishing it completely and washing their material lives away.
To make matters worse still, the Canvenders’ livelihoods were also home-based, so they now have very little in the way of income. 

Liesl moved to Alicante 13 years ago with her husband Richard (50), where they set up a successful IT business and refurbished an old Spanish house.

However, despite losing everything in the freak flood, the husband and wife were lucky. Seven people are known to have been killed.

The former Melmount Road resident continued, “It all happened so fast. One minute we were lifting our belongings onto shelves and the next the house is gone.”

She added, “What I didn’t know then was that Richard was trying to wrangle our five cats to take them to safety but it was impossible. They were terrified and they were all hiding and in the end he came out in tears. All we had was ourselves and the dogs and we had to wade through rising waters to get to safety. Even then though, we never dreamed our house would be destroyed, never mind be washed away. Our neighbour said they had never seen flooding on our road for 60 years.”
According to Spanish law, insurance companies do not pay out following ‘acts of God.’ Instead, when paying an insurance premium, monies are set aside into a ‘consortium’. It is this mechanism, Liesl and her husband are hoping will help them out financially. However it could take months before anything is sorted.

“We’re hoping that will happen but we don’t know. No-one has confirmed anything yet. There are so many people here affected, all the crops are affected. Our car in still in the river.

“We’ve been here 13 years and we have had offers from people to come back to Ireland or the UK. 

“We’re not making any decision at the minute because we’re not thinking right.”

Following the disaster Liesl and Richard’s friends have set up a Go Fund Me page ‘Getting Rich and Liesl back on their feet’ which will help them begin to rebuild their lives until the Spanish authorities settle their compensation claim.

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere


The Strabane Chronicle is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 4 Castle Street, Strabane, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland, BT82 8AB