Although a land accustomed to used periods of intense, heavy rain, there have also been infamous examples of major flooding in the Basque Country. One such example occurred on June 30, 1834 in the Deba Valley of Gipuzkoa, and came to be known as the San Martzial Urak, the “Saint Martial Waters” (coinciding with the feast day of Saint Martial).

Source of the River Deba, near the Hermitage of Saint Columba, in Dorleta, Leintz Gatzaga. Photo by Javierme. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Source of the River Deba, near the Hermitage of Saint Columba, in Dorleta, Leintz Gatzaga. Photo by Javierme. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The River Deba forms one of the river valleys so typical of the maritime zone in the Basque Country. That June day, a major summer storm hit the valley, swelling the waters of the Deba and its tributaries to breaking levels. In the town of Antzuola, one of the worst affected places, water levels rose to nearly 15 feet in the main square and one whole neighborhood was completely flooded, uprooting 1,500 trees, destroying various homes, mills, the portico of the parish church,  and the public school, among other major damage.

Alongside Antzuola, the worst-affected towns were Leintz-Gatzaga, Eskoriatza, Aretxabaleta, Arrasate, Bergara, Soraluze, and Elgoibar. In sum, throughout the valley, nineteen mills, twenty-two bridges, seventy-six buildings, and three churches were completely destroyed and major damage done to many other edifices. As regards the human cost, many people took refuge in churches, pleading for clemency, although several of these sites were among the worst hit places.

"The water of the terrible flood of the River Deba, on June 30, 1834, reached this point." Inscription on the wall of the parish church of Santa Marina in Bergara.

“The water of the terrible flood of the River Deba, on June 30, 1834, reached this point.” Inscription on the wall of the parish church of Santa Marina in Bergara.

In the aftermath of the disaster, it was calculated that eighty-nine people had been killed by the floods–seventy-six of whom had been washed downstream and whose bodies appeared on the beach in the town of Deba itself.

Source: K.O., “La inundación más catastrófica se produjo el 30 de junio de 1834,” Diario Vasco, February 23, 2014.