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Historic snowfall cools Madrid slum to the bone – Times of India

MADRID: “We are not animals but dogs live better than us”, sighs Lidia Arribas, who lives without electricity in a sprawling slum near Madrid where temperatures hit historic lows this week.
Days after its heaviest snowfall in 50 years, Madrid woke up on Tuesday to its lowest temperatures in decades, with the mercury dropping to minus 10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit).
And the brutal cold hit particularly hard Canada Real Galiana, one of the largest slums in Europe, where for months more than half of its nearly 8,000 inhabitants have had no electricity for heating or lighting.
Police blame illegals for shortage cannabis plantations whose lamps, extractors and fans consume so much energy that they cause widespread blackouts in the surrounding area.
The crisis caused by the power cuts and the cold snap has been denounced by UN human rights experts, NGOs and Oscar-winning Spanish actress Penelope Cruz.
“I’m really mad at the authorities … everyone is passing the buck … nobody is doing anything,” says Arribas, a 37-year-old mother of three, torch in hand as she walks home. it 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 humidity.
Without electricity, she, her brother, and sister can’t get any of their school’s online homework assignments, and neither the refrigerator nor the washing machine will work.
An unofficial settlement built along a 16 kilometer (10 mile) expanse of land flanking the southeast section of Madrid’s M50 ring road, Canada Real is home to a community mainly of Moroccan or Gypsy origin who lives in extreme poverty.
Built along a former cattle trail, this sprawling slum has been around for decades, with the latest blackout affecting some 4,000 residents.
Without heating, the brutal frost left a lot of trouble to cope.
Sunday evening, a three-year-old girl was taken to hospital “showing signs of hypothermia”, explains Conrado Gimenez, head of the NGO Fondacion Madrina which provides residents with food, blankets and gas bottles. .
A similar case occurred last month and was reported by UN human rights experts who warned that the power cuts “endanger the health of some 1,800 children” in Canada Real .
“The children in Canada Real Galiana are really suffering and their health is threatened,” they said.
“Now that winter is approaching – and particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic – the electricity must be restored.”
Lidia Arribas’ neighbor Yolanda Martin says she is “more afraid of the cold than of Covid”.
“I get up in the morning and my blankets are frozen, it’s very dark and I can’t take a shower,” says this 47-year-old girl whose lips are blue with cold.
Without work since May, her only source of heat and light is a chiminea in the middle of her house.
“It will be minus 11 ° C tonight, as cold as hell, but we are surviving with the little wood we have left,” she told AFP.
“We’re breaking tables and stuff that isn’t worth much to throw on the fire.”
Two police officers patrolling the area, known to supply the capital with drugs, say the power cuts are caused by cannabis farms set up in homes in the area.
This week, Spanish energy giant Naturgy, which provides free electricity to Canada Real, began cutting power to several suspicious homes in order to get the grid back on track.
Local residents and Pedro del Cura, mayor of Rivas-Vaciamadrid, where part of the slum is located, are calling for more network capacity.
They also fear that electricity will be cut in households unrelated to drug trafficking.
Despite the cold, Arribas still hopes that they will be reconnected to the grid so that she can warm her children’s home, whose only consolation these days is the snowball fights in the neighborhood.
“We must not give up hope,” she said, her eyes lowered.
“Someone has to listen to us because we can’t go on like this. It’s really, really hard,” she sighs.
“It’s very sad.”

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