Costa del Sol News - 26th October 2005

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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The Costa del Sol weekly newspaper, on sale at newsagents.

Week October 20st to October 26th 2005.

RETIREMENT HOME FRAUD

English couple arrested as they try to flee the country

BY OLIVER MCINTYRE

POLICE IN BENALMÁDENA HAVE ARRESTED AN ENGLISH COUPLE FOR ALLEGEDLY ABANDONING THEIR RETIREMENT HOME AND ATTEMPTING TO FLEE THE COUNTRY, LEAVING BEHIND THREE ELDERLY RESIDENTS, UNPAID WORKERS AND A 185,000-EURO RENTAL DEBT.
Information provided to Costa del Sol News by the Town Hall claims the local police acted after learning of potential irregularities at the retirement home, known as Residencia Buenaventura and located in Benalmádena Costa.

The Town Hall's Social Services Department, which was 'suspicious of the service being provided at the home', collaborated in the investigation that led to the arrest of the couple, A.J.W. and L.W.
When the police entered, accompanied by the owner of the building, they found workers moving out furniture and personal items. According to the Town Hall, the workers informed the police that the English couple, who were still in the building, had told them they could take whatever they wanted because they were not going to get paid.

ELDERLY RESIDENTS LEFT BEHIND
Inside the home, the police found three elderly women residents, who were supposedly going to be left at the home. One of them was seriously ill and had to be taken to hospital by ambulance. The other two have been taken in by their families.
The police reported encountering resistance from the English couple and the workers, saying that at one point one of the officers was attacked.

The police seized a wide variety of items, some of which they say could be belongings of ex-residents of the centre. "There are indications that personal belongings of the residents were taken in exchange for bounced cheques from the operators of the home," said Police Chief Lázaro Bañasco. Among the items seized from the couple were envelopes containing a total of around 20,000 euros, a number of pieces of jewellery, watches, bank account information and chequebooks.

A Torremolinos court has opened proceedings in the case. The English couple could face charges of fraud, falsification of documentation, coercion, failure to provide medical assistance to someone in need and robbery.

 

Tony King goes on trial

The alleged murderer of Sonia Carabantes proclaims his innocence

BY OLIVER MCINTYRE

THE TRIAL OF BRITON TONY ALEXANDER KING FOR THE 2003 MURDER OF 17-YEAR-OLD SONIA CARABANTES IN COÍN BEGAN ON MONDAY. KING ARRIVED AT COURT IN AN AGITATED STATE, YELLING TO THE THRONG OF JOURNALISTS AND ONLOOKERS, "I AM INNOCENT! I HAVE DONE NOTHING!"
As the trial got underway, King gave testimony that differed from previous accounts he has given during the investigative phase of the case, making this his third conflicting version of the events surrounding the death of the Coín girl. He denied killing Srta Carabantes and claimed that his acquaintance Robert Graham and Dolores Vázquez were involved.

King testified that in the early morning hours of August 14, 2003, he was extremely drunk and had taking a sleeping pill and smoked marihuana. When he got into his car to drive home from the Coín fair, he hit something and got out to find Srta Carabantes on the ground in a puddle of blood, he said. Then someone hit him on the head twice, after which he remembers nothing, King testified. He later found himself in the back seat of the car with the girl, unconscious, next to him, he said. Then she was gone and he was alone in the back seat with just the girl's underwear, which he threw out the window after getting into the drivers seat and taking off, he said.

INCRIMINATING DOLORES VÁZQUEZ AND ROBBIE GRAHAM
King claimed his first statements to the police when he was arrested, in which he admitted to killing Srta Carabantes as well as Rocío Wanninkhof, were false and made under duress of torture. He claimed that the Coín killing, the 1999 murder in Mijas of Rocío Wanninkhof, for which he is also charged and will later face trial, as well as the disappearance of a girl in Motril are all connected and that Dolores Vázquez and Robbie Graham were involved. "The leader of the group is that bitch Dolores Vázquez, who paid for it all," he said during his testimony.

Dolores Vázquez, a former partner of Rocío Wanninkhof's mother, was originally convicted for the Wanninkhof murder but the trial was later annulled. All charges against her have been dropped following the arrest of King for the Coín murder and the finding that his DNA matched samples found at the scenes of both that crime and the Mijas killing. Following King's arrest, Graham was arrested for allegedly helping him cover up the Mijas crime, but was released because the statute of limitations had run out on the cover-up charge.

King's girlfriend at the time of the Coín crime, María Luisa Gallego, also testified on the first day of the trial, contradicting King's version of events. On the morning of the crime, he came home bloody and did not appear drunk but rather tired, she said. It was Sra Gallego who reported King to the police after learning that the murder of Srta Carabantes had occurred the same morning King had come home bloody and acting suspicious.

The prosecutor arguing the case told the court that King hid behind a tree waiting for his victim, attacked her and beat her unconscious, then threw her in his car and drove her to a secluded area where he beat her again, sexually assaulted her and finally strangled her to death with her own blouse.

In all, some 35 witnesses are expected to testify at the trial, which will run at least through the end of this week. If found guilty, King could face 34 years in prison based on the prosecutor's charges of murder, sexual aggression and illegal abduction.
No trial date has yet been set for King in the Rocío Wanninkhof murder case.

 

Bizarre week at San Roque town hall

Mayor resigns then changes his mind

By David Eade

Last Thursday the socialist Mayor of San Roque, José Vázquez, called a press conference to announce that he had irrevocably resigned his post as part of the post election pact with the USR. Following the 2003 local elections both PSOE and the USR formed a coalition with Sr Vázquez being Mayor for the first two years and then the post being taken over by USR leader José Antonio Ledesma for the remainder of the four-year term.

In recent months strains had appeared in the PSOE-USR pact and there was uncertainty as to when Sr Vázquez would stand down. After being instructed by the provincial PSOE party, José Vázquez duly resigned last week and a council meeting was called for Tuesday night where Sr Ledesma was expected to be elected mayor. However his election had to go before a formal council vote and both the Partido Popular and PIVG had put forward candidates for the post.

On Tuesday morning, San Roque Town Hall called a press conference for 13.30 at which Sr Vázquez announced that he had changed his mind, the pact with the USR was at an end and he would continue as mayor. In so doing he also cancelled the mayor making meeting scheduled for that evening.

At a press conference surrounded by the spokespersons of all the parties and councillors Sr Vázquez stated he had changed his mind because of his love for San Roque, the representations made by local people and politicians for him to stay and because the situation between his party and the USR had changed. It has been alleged that there was a split in the USR ranks and that Isabel Ruíz, its councillor who is responsible for fiestas, had pleaded in a letter for Sr Vázquez to stay on. It is now expected that José Vázquez will lead a coalition of all parties at the town hall but with the exclusion of Sr Ledesma and the remnants of his USR group.

 

HMS Tireless

Nuclear submarines will continue to visit Gibraltar

Greenpeace appeals to British Ambassador to intervene

By David Eade

AT THE TRI-PARTY FORUM BETWEEN BRITAIN, SPAIN AND GIBRALTAR LAST WEEK ON THE ISLAND OF MALLORCA, IT EMERGED THAT THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT HAS NO INTENTION OF PROVIDING SPAIN WITH ANY ASSURANCE, WRITTEN OR VERBAL, THAT NUCLEAR SUBMARINES WILL NOT BE REPAIRED IN THE ROCK'S NAVAL DOCKYARD.
Dominick Chilcott, the director for Mediterranean Europe at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said the UK was willing to explore how it could provide reassurances about routine submarine calls as well as calm concerns remaining from the HMS Tireless's yearlong visit.

He told the press conference after the meeting: "On the specific question of whether we are negotiating an understanding that there will be no further repairs of submarines in Gibraltar, that is not what we're doing. Let's be quite clear about that.
"We would like to capture how we can provide reassurances about our normal operations of our submarines and deal with the issue of Tireless."

The leader of the Spanish delegation, José Pons, who is director general for Europe and North America at the Spanish Foreign Affairs Ministry, spoke of the unease that HMS Tireless had caused in Spain. He stated: "Our interest is in having the assurance and the peace of mind that all submarine visits are taking place with complete normality. What we are asking from the British government is a recognition that what happened back then should not happen again."

GREENPEACE REACTS
The director of Greenpeace in Spain, Juan López de Uralde, has written to the British Ambassador in Madrid, Stephen Wright, to protest about the statement made by Dominick Chilcott after the tri-party meeting in Mallorca.

In the letter Greenpeace stated: "These vessels carry atomic reactors that can cause radioactive escapes or leaks and are also likely to be carrying nuclear weapons. In case of an accident they can produce a catastrophic situation not only in Gibraltar but also in Andalucía and Morocco and for that reason a decision on the continued presence transcends frontiers."

Greenpeace reminded the British Ambassador that one of Spain's conditions in the referendum of membership to NATO was the explicit prohibition of entry to its ports of these types of vessels, precisely because of the risk involved. The environmental group called on the British government not to permit nuclear vessels to visit Gibraltar.

 

Ronda acts against underage drinking

NEWS Staff Reporter

The National and local police in Ronda carried out a joint operation in Ronda on Saturday night aimed at cracking down on the largely underage drinking known as the 'botellón' in the central Blas Infante gardens.

Officers set up 47 control points in the zone and confiscated knives, alcohol and drugs from numerous young people. However, the police did not make any arrests, issue any fines or contact the parents of any of the underage drinkers involved.
The operation was carried out in conjunction with the Town Hall's Social Welfare Department and the aim, say the authorities, was to inform the youths that they were breaking the law and to warn them as to their future conduct.

The control points will be repeated on other weekends, including this coming one. After last weekend's warning campaign, in the upcoming campaigns young people found in possession of drink or drugs will be taken to the police station and their parents will be informed. In addition, they could face fines of up to 1,200 euros.

It is not only the young people who are being targeted. The police and Social Welfare officials are also visiting around 300 establishments in the town that sell drink and cigarettes and have warned them not to sell to minors or they will face stiff penalties.

The Social Welfare Department has also recognised the need of the town's young people to join together for recreation at weekends. The Blas Infante gardens are considered an unsuitable venue, so consideration is being given to opening up an area at the town's feria ground so that controlled gatherings can still take place.

 

Forgotten explosives cause 'rain of stones'

By Dave Jamieson

Maro has been subjected to another 'rain of stones' after explosives were accidentally set off on the site of the new coastal motorway. The latest incident came without warning at 8.30 Saturday, when nearly the whole village was covered with debris after a rock-breaking excavator hit explosive material left over from a previous blasting operation. The driver of the vehicle sustained light injuries when the glass windscreen was shattered by the blast.

A number of parked cars in Calle San Miguel and Calle Real were damaged, as were some properties in Vía San Antón. A number of residents, including Mayor Antonio Gallardo, presented formal complaints to the Guardia Civil in Nerja, expressing concern that a dangerous cache of explosives could be 'forgotten' by the contractors.

The events of Saturday followed a more serious incident in August when some of the rocks which fell on Maro after a scheduled blasting operation weighed almost 20 kilos and caused substantial damage to a number of properties up to 300 metres from the blast site. At the time, police sources confirmed that the incident "had been very dangerous" and residents described as "a miracle" the fact that no injuries had been reported. At the Hotel Playa Maro, the proprietor, Manuel Casanova, reported that a huge rock broke through the window of a bedroom where a two-year-old child was asleep. Following the damage done in August to property and cars – as well as to the tourist industry – the contractor, Dragados-Obras Subterráneas, promised there would be no more blasting until the end of October. However, residents have reported that for the last two or three weeks, excavation work has been in progress from 6.30 each morning, including Saturdays, resulting in early and unwelcome alarm calls.

 

Málaga flights hit by technical and financial prob

BY DAVE JAMIESON

PASSENGERS ON MONARCH AND AIR SCOTLAND FLIGHTS IN AND OUT OF MÁLAGA HAVE BEEN DELAYED BY TECHNICAL FAULTS AND A BIZARRE REFUELLING ROW.
Holidaymakers travelling from Manchester have been involved in two separate dramas with the same airline in a week. The first incident a fortnight ago came when Monarch flight ZB752 en route to Málaga was forced to land at Gatwick. The airliner was flying over France when it rapidly lost altitude and oxygen masks dropped automatically from above the passenger seats. It was re-routed back to England where it landed safely and without injury to any of the 197 passengers on board. A full-scale emergency plan was launched on the ground with six ambulances standing by. A Monarch spokeswoman said that the masks were deployed on board the Airbus A321 due to the "pressurisation fault". She added that the crew were in control at all times while the unscheduled landing in West Sussex was made.

ANOTHER EMERGENCY LANDING FOR MONARCH
That incident was followed last week by the emergency landing of another of Monarch's fleet which had to return to Málaga shortly after take-off for Manchester. Observers on the ground reported hearing a number of explosions and seeing flames in the port engine of the airliner. Almost immediately after take-off at 13:10, the captain requested permission to return to Málaga where he landed safely 35 minutes later, after dumping some fuel over the sea and with the fire in the engine extinguished. The airport's emergency service attended the landing but were not required, and all 199 passengers plus the crew disembarked without injury. The passengers were then delayed while Monarch found another aircraft to take them home and finally took off aboard an Airbus 300 at 21:25. From their UK base, Monarch said that the captain and crew had been in total control throughout the emergency. The incident came five days after Monarch announced their decision to open the company's first overseas base at Málaga airport (CDSN last week).

AIR SCOTLAND'S 12 HOURS DELAY
Meanwhile, hundreds of Air Scotland passengers awaiting their flight home from Málaga last Thursday evening were delayed for several hours after a bizarre mix-up over the airline's fuel payments. The story began at Edinburgh airport where Air Scotland's only airliner, an elderly Boeing 757, was preparing for a flight to Málaga. Fuel suppliers BP refused to accept the company credit card presented by the aircraft's pilot, allegedly because of outstanding debts.

It was later reported that the Glasgow travel agent and chairman of Air Scotland, Iraqi-born Dhia Al-Ani, decided to his shares in the airline to his Spanish business partners, Barcelona based H-Top Hotels, who already held a stake in the company. They claimed that an administrative error in transferring the accounts to Spain caused a delay which apparently prevented funds from being released. The 220 passengers travelling from Edinburgh to Málaga were due to leave at 15:20, but their departure from the Scottish airport was further delayed when the crew ended their legal time on shift and the low-cost carrier had difficulty in finding replacement staff. The flight eventually left for Spain ten hours late at 01:20, with a consequent knock-on delay for the 220 passengers Málaga awaiting the return flight. They finally left for Scotland at 06:30, some 12 hours after checking in.

 

Rincón hikes taxes for non-residents

News Staff Reporter

Non-resident property owners in Rincón de la Victoria face a ten per cent rise in their Impuesto sobre Bienes Inmuebles (IBI). The tax rate hike was approved at a meeting of the Town Council last week, which also agreed that the IBI rise for those whose names appear on the municipality's census would be just three per cent. The councillor responsible, Eva Carnero, justified the non-resident rise by pointing out that while Rincón has around 26,000 houses, only 10,800 correspond to those who have registered at the Town Hall.

This means that more than half the home owners in the town are enjoying local facilities without paying any taxes to maintain them. The situation also means that Rincón receives far less in grants from the State than it needs for the true size of the municipality, an unenviable situation which is shared by other towns along the coast. The Town Hall, which has been campaigning locally for residents to register, estimates that Madrid would provide eight million euros in support if full registration were achieved, whereas it presently receives just 4.3 million euros.

Amongst other local taxes reviewed and amended by the Council last week was the price of a civil wedding licence which will rise from 60 to 90 euros for residents and to 120 euros for non-residents, an increase described by opposition parties as "tremendous".

 

Benalmádena marina expansion one step closer

BY OLIVER MCINTYRE

THE JUNTA DE ANDALUCÍA'S REGIONAL PORT AUTHORITY (EPPA) LAST WEEK DELIVERED TO BENALMÁDENA TOWN HALL THE FINAL CONDITIONS UNDER WHICH THE TOWN'S LONG-AWAITED MARINA EXPANSION PROJECT CAN MOVE FORWARD.
The Town Hall must now submit to EPPA within 30 days its formal acceptance of the conditions, along with a variety of documentation regarding the project. Once that is done and the Town Hall receives the official administrative concession, the construction and operating contract can be awarded. Benalmádena Mayor Erique Bolín recently said that once the concession is received, work would begin in four months, meaning the project could get underway in spring. It has been eight years since the Town Hall first began working on its plan for the marina expansion.

The conditions outlined by EPPA include the modifications to the project that in May of this year it told the Town Hall would be required. These included a reduction in the number of parking spaces, from the planned 1,100 to 364, and in increase in the number of new moorage slots, from the projected 800 to 1,000.

'BIGGEST RECREATIONAL MARINA ON THE MED'
The greater number of new moorages came because of an increase in the marina's water area due to the nixing of a land zone where the Town Hall originally wanted to put an opera house. The marina will now have a water area of 197,630 square metres, 27,000 square metres more than the Town Hall had planned. It will have a total of nearly 2,000 moorages, making it, according to the Town Hall, "the biggest recreational marina on the Mediterranean." The expansion project is expected to cost some 60 million euros, with a construction timeline of around three years once work begins.

For jazz read "Jaxx"

By Dave Jamieson

Málaga's twentieth annual Jazz Festival begins on November 2. Ten days of music at the Cervantes Theatre will see 12 top-rated concerts, which this year will support victims of the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans.

The pianist Chick Corea headlines the bill, along with Brazilian vocalist Rosa Passos and veteran American drummer and band-leader Roy Haynes who will open the festival with his quartet on Wednesday 2. In his concert on Monday 7, Chick Corea will be accompanied by Spanish musicians including percussionist Rubén Dantes, bassist Carles Benevent and saxophonist Jorge Prado.
Stacey Kent, presenter of jazz programmes BBC Radio 3, is now one of the world's foremost female jazz vocalists with five best selling albums to her credit. Clint Eastwood asked her to sing at his 70th birthday party, and on Friday 10, she will be singing in Málaga. Another fine singer, Rosa Passos, who will be at the festival the next day, has been compared to Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson and Carmen McRae. She will be including tracks from her latest album, a tribute to the legendary João Gilberto, which includes favourites such as "Besame Mucho" and "S'Wonderful".

On Saturday 11, there will be a performance by Ramón Valle, described by Chucho Valdes as "the biggest talent in the latest generation of Cuban pianists", while the following day, guitarist Russell Malone and pianist Benny Green will be on stage together.

One of the most influential alto saxophonists in the early development of modern jazz, Lee Konitz, can be heard on in the closing concert on Sunday 12. Konitz, who is generally regarded as one of the architects of 'cool' playing, will play at the festival with Mary Ann McSweeney, bass, and Mark Ferber, drums, as part of a four-date Spanish tour.

Serious rockfall from Nerja cliffs

BY DAVE JAMIESON

THERE HAS BEEN ANOTHER MAJOR FALL OF ROCKS FROM THE CLIFFS BEHIND NERJA'S BURRIANA BEACH.
Around midnight last Wednesday, tons of stones and boulders were on the move, blocking the road below with rubble and smashing the glass entrance door of an apartment block opposite. As in previous similar incidents, it was fortuitous that no pedestrians were in the area, so no injuries were reported. One of the houses situated on the cliff top lost part of its back garden in the incident, and several extremely large boulders have come to rest in precarious positions above the road, which is the principal exit road from the beach area and which has now been permanently closed to vehicles and pedestrians by local police. The landslip also completely buried a track used by municipal staff to access a site where garden waste is dumped.

Nerja's councillor for infrastructure, José Alberto Tomé, said that specialist firms were being contacted to remove the rocks which were now positioned dangerously, and that the safety of the property most affected on the cliff top would also be reviewed.
It is not the first time that the area has suffered such incidents, although last week's appears to be one of the most serious yet. In June, residents and business owners in the Burriana Beach area expressed concern after a landslip brought tons of large rocks and rubble crashing down from the cliffs onto another stretch of the same road, damaging a number of parked
vehicles.

CLIFFS REINFORCEMENT PROGRAMME
Cliffs further west have been the subject of a major reinforcement programme in recent months following several serious falls of rock in 2001 and 2002. This time, speculation has been rife on the disastrous results of last week's events, if they had happened at midday instead of midnight in an area frequented by hundreds of tourists every day.

Naval parade to celebrate Battle of Trafalgar

Over 50 vessels to take part in celebrations

By David Eade

THIS FRIDAY IS THE 200TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR AND WHILST MANY EVENTS ARE PLANNED IN BRITAIN ARGUABLY THE MOST EMOTIVE WILL BE HELD ON SATURDAY OCTOBER 22 WHEN A MAJOR NAVAL PARADE WILL TAKE PLACE IN THE WATERS OFF CAPE TRAFALGAR IN CÁDIZ.
The 1805 naval battle was between the warships of France and Spain against the English fleet under Admiral Nelson and took place in the Bay of Cádiz off Cape Trafalgar, which gave the battle its name. Before the battle the Franco-Spanish fleet had been tied up in the port of Cádiz.

The Battle of Trafalgar is important in international terms because it put a break on Napoleon's ambitions and catapulted Britain into being the world's major sea power for over a century. However it also of importance to the town and people of Cádiz because it is very much part of their local heritage.

The 2005 naval encounter in these historic waters will be a very different affair from that of two centuries ago. Whilst the vessels taking part will attempt to reproduce the battle lines of the two fleets the participants will largely be made up of recreational boats from the yacht clubs in the Bay of Cádiz as well as other ports in Andalucía and elsewhere in Spain. The event is also being supported by the Sail Training Association, the regional government, the town halls of Cádiz and Barbate, the Spanish Navy, the coastguard, the Cádiz Bay port authority, the university of Cádiz and various other port associations and authorities.

'HONOUR AND GLORY'
Under the theme the 'Honour and Glory of the Heroes of Trafalgar and the people of Cádiz who helped them' the ceremony will start at 12.30 when at least 50 participating vessels will arrive off Trafalgar at the Palmar beach. At around 13.00 they will sail in file in a formation representing that of the Franco-Spanish and British fleets. At the end of the commemorations, the patrol boat 'El Vigía' will place a floral tribute on the waters of the bay and will then sail with the lines of yachts in a spectacular and emotional cruise. Later after some short speeches a minute's silence will be observed in honour of all the combatants. Once the ceremony has been completed all the participating vessels will sail to Barbate were the crews will enjoy a traditional sailor's meal.

Call for calm in bird flu scare

By Oliver McIntyre

SPANISH GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS HAVE CALLED FOR CALM IN THE FACE OF FEARS OVER THE RECENT OUTBREAK OF AVIAN INFLUENZA, OR BIRD FLU, IN ROMANIA, TURKEY AND GREECE.
The government stresses that risk is Spain is low and protective measures are in place in the event that the potentially dangerous virus were to appear here.

The outbreaks in both Turkey and Romania have been identified as the deadly H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus, which in a number of Asian countries has killed more than 60 people since 2003 and resulted in the preventive slaughtering of millions of chickens, ducks or other poultry. At press time, officials were still testing to determine if the case in Greece also is of the H5N1 strain.
The spread of bird flu occurs chiefly between birds, but has also made the jump from birds to humans. Health officials' major concern is the possibility that the deadly virus could evolve to become contagious from one person to another. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "So far, spread of H5N1 virus from person to person has been rare and spread has not continued beyond one person. However, because all influenza viruses have the ability to change, scientists are concerned that the H5N1 virus could one day be able to infect humans and spread easily from one person to another."

In the most recent cases of human infections in Asia, the H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus has had a reported death rate of 50 per cent, according to the CDC.
Spain's Agriculture minister, Elena Espinosa, stressed at the weekend that the greatest risk of human infection with the bird flu comes from prolonged exposure to infected birds or their faeces. In Spain, unlike in some other countries, poultry farms generally do not present the conditions for such exposure, she said. In addition, Agriculture has stepped up its periodic testing at the country's poultry farms, and importation of birds or bird-product derivatives from outside the country is prohibited.
Sra Espinosa said another potential means of human infection is the consumption of uncooked infected poultry. Cooking to a minimum temperature of 70 degrees C. guarantees that the bird virus, if present, is killed and harmless, she said. The World Health Organisation (WHO) confirms this and adds: "To date there is no epidemiological information to suggest that the disease can be transmitted through contaminated food or that products shipped from affected areas have been the source of infection in humans."

HEALTH OFFICIALS' WARNING
The WHO indicates that to date there have only been 117 recorded cases of bird flu in humans worldwide. But health officials continue to fear the potential mutation of the virus or its merging with a human flu virus, and the pandemic that could result. Just last weekend British Chief Medical Officer Liam Donaldson stated that such an evolution or mutation of the bird flu is all but inevitable and that it could result in at least 50,000 deaths in the UK alone. The WHO recently put the potential worldwide death toll of such a pandemic at as high as 150 million, but later reduced its estimate to seven million. The last major human flu pandemic, in 1918-19, killed an estimated 40 million to 50 million people worldwide.

Early this week European Union officials warned that some member countries, among them Spain, have not stockpiled sufficient quantities of bird flu vaccine. The WHO recommends that each country have enough vaccine to treat 25 per cent of its total population. Spain has ordered just two million doses of the vaccine, enough for roughly five per cent of the country's population.

Culture tourists boost income

News Staff Reporter

One in every five tourists comes to Andalucía to experience its culture. The statistic was revealed at last weekend's Cultural Tourism Fair in Málaga, where more than 190 tourist destinations from 13 countries around the world were represented. Resorts as far afield as central America were displaying their wares, but, apart from the city of Málaga itself, Nerja and Antequera were the only local centres to have their own exhibition stands. Nerja took the opportunity to promote its famous caves which, with around half a million visitors every year, constitute one of Spain's most visited tourist sites. The first two days of the event were for trade delegates only while the two weekend days were open to the public.

The director general for the promotion of tourism at the Junta de Andalucía, Ana Gómez, attended the opening of the four-day event last Thursday where she said that the region welcomed 4.7 million "cultural tourists" in 2004. Their visits generated 2,000 million euros, placing culture second only to sun and sand in economic importance. 70 per cent of such tourists came from Spain, with the remainder mainly from Britain, France and Germany. Individuals are typically under 50 with a university education, and enjoy a high disposable income which results in an average spend which is twice that of other holiday makers. The cultural offerings of Andalucía have now become so important to regional tourism that Turespaña has dedicated 35 per cent of its 12 million euro promotional budget to it. However, its director general, Amparo Fernández, called for strong private support for the authorities in the construction of infrastructure and improvements to old town centres.

Last week's event, the second of its kind in Málaga, is pioneering in European cultural tourism. The sector has accounted for 15 per cent of all visitors to Spain in recent years.

 

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