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Schools shut as torrential rains hit southeastern Spain

MADRID (Reuters) - Spanish authorities protectively shut down schools, universities and day-care centres as torrential rains swept over the coastal southeast on Tuesday following a long drought, leaving behind flooded basements, submerged cars and closed-off roads.

Heavy rainfall was expected to continue throughout the rest of Tuesday in the worst-hit areas - including parts of the Murcia, Valencia and Andalusia regions - amid a spate of high-alert flood warnings from the government.

In the city of Cartagena, emergency services battled to drain heavily inundated streets. Local television footage showed water almost completely covering parked cars and motorbikes.

Some locations in the Valencia region saw more rain in a few days than they had in the previous six months combined, national weather agency AEMET said.

The town of Ontinyent in Valencia broke the record for the highest accumulated rainfall in one day in May in the past 100 years, with up to 130 litres per square metre (28.7 gallons per square yard), according to the agency.

The rains could help mitigate the prolonged drought afflicting Spain, which was on track to register the driest spring since records began in 1961, AEMET spokesman Ruben del Campo said.

Even so, he said the season was still expected to be one of the driest springs on record.

Nationwide precipitation between October 2022 and May 21 of this year was 28% lower than the average for the period, Del Campo said, with double the standard rainfall required until end-September to reach normal levels.

(Reporting by Emma Pinedo and David Latona; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Leslie Adler)