Costa del Sol News - 10th August 2006

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Week 10th August - 16th August 2006

Jellyfish attack!

Hundreds of bathers stung in repeat of last year's invasions

By Oliver McIntyre

HUNDREDS OF SWIMMERS HAVE BEEN STUNG BY JELLYFISH CAUSING OFFICIALS TO TEMPORARILY CLOSE BEACHES AND RAISING FEARS OF A REPEAT OF LAST SUMMER'S INVASIONS.

Regiments of jellyfish are making their presence felt along the coastline again this year as they seek their favourite conditions - warmer and saltier water. Experts believe that the swarms of barely visible invertebrates, usually found over twenty miles offshore are coming closer to the coast due to a change in climatic conditions; a drought-induced reduction in river flows into the sea along the whole of the coastline and higher than usual sustained temperatures.

"The increase in sea temperature and salinity are causing a massive appearance of the micro-organisms that are the foundation of the jellyfish's diet," said the Torremolinos Consumers' Information Office (OMIC), which has issued advice on how to avoid stings and what to do if you are stung.

Other reasons for the unwanted visitors are the recent strong easterly winds and currents; the over-fishing of jellyfish predators such as tuna and turtles has also contributed to a boom in the number of 'stingers'.

Further swarms are expected as temperatures continue high and weather conditions are forecast to remain the same.

There was a sharp rise in the number of people stung at beaches along the Costa del Sol and Costa Tropical at the weekend. On the particularly hard-hit Granada coast, officials prohibited swimming at Motril, Calahonda, Carchuna and other beaches. Despite the warnings some people ignored the red flags.

On the Málaga coast, at least 400 people were stung on Benalmádena beaches on a single day last week. That's compared to 600 people treated for stings in the town during July, and just 100 in June.

Mijas also saw an increase in stings at the weekend, with more than 100 people treated on Sunday and Nerja has asked the regional government for help in clearing the beaches. Throughout the province more than 1,000 people have been stung over the last 10 days.

AVOIDING STINGS
The Torremolinos OMIC recommends that bathers, and particularly the elderly and those with allergies, stay out of the sea. Because the gelatinous animals can be difficult to spot in the water, bathers should 'not linger in the areas where waves break'. If a jellyfish is seen swimmers should take caution, as wave action can break off tentacles, which float freely and can still sting.

Jellyfish that appear to be dead on the beach should not be touched, as they retain their venom and still have a stinging effect for some time.

STING TREATMENT
If you are stung don't wash the affected area with fresh water or rub it, says the OMIC. If the sting needs to be cleaned, salt water or saline solution should be used, and care taken not to touch the area directly with your fingers. The OMIC recommends applying an ice bag or any other cool item. In most cases, no further treatment is necessary, it says, but if the pain does not diminish or dizziness or fever are noted, the sting victim should be taken directly to a health centre.

 


Pensioner could lose home due to "unfair" charges

Estepona Golf residents protest over exorbitant urbanisation fees

By David Eade

PENSIONER ELIZABETH BROOKES AND HER LATE HUSBAND BERNARD PURCHASED THEIR HOME ON THE ESTEPONA GOLF URBANISATION BECAUSE BERNARD WAS A KEEN GOLFER. NOW SHE SAYS A 29, 751-EURO CHARGE FOR URBANISATION INFRASTRUCTURE COSTS MAY FORCE HER TO SELL THE HOME.

Mrs Brookes was one of over 50 homeowners from Estepona Golf who recently made their case in a demonstration outside Estepona Town Hall. Stephen Kimsey told the Costa del Sol News: "They were desperate for the mayor to hear their grievances against the landowner of Estepona Golf, Mr Rory Leader, and the developers who have put extortionate infrastructure charges on their homes."

The crowds waved placards, blew whistles and booed outside Mayor Antonio Barrientos' office. Mounted police were there to stop the protesters blocking the road. The two homeowners' association presidents, Don Manuel Sánchez Rodriguez and Don Alfonso Gonzalez Careaga-Benito, handed in a petition to the mayor's office.

Mr Kimsey stated that apart from Estepona Golf residents, "the protest drew people from as far as Nerja, San Roque and Puerto Romano who face the same life-changing costs." Alec Maguire, who is the mediator of the group, gave speech thanking everyone for coming and declaring, "United we stand, divided we fall!" before the demonstrators marched through the streets of Estepona. The residents now plan further protests and media campaigns, in addition to bringing a case before the courts.

DETERIORATING INFRASTRUCTURE
Rory Leader has previously stated that charges to residents are necessary to repair deteriorating or incomplete infrastructure at Estepona Golf. "We applied for a 'reparcelisation' of the Estepona Golf Urbanization about five years ago - more than anything, to try to control future development, but also to centralise and apportion funds to rectify the infrastructure," he said. "I have no idea why [the residents] would even think that they would never have to contribute anything - however nominal." But Mrs Brookes and others argue that charges are far from nominal.

 


Yagüe's BMW was stolen in France

NEWS Staff Reporter

Marbella Town Hall recently announced plans to auction Jesús Gil's Rolls Royce and former mayor Marisol Yagüe's BMW X5 to raise much-needed funds (CDSN, Aug. 3 - 9). Whilst bidding closes today on Gil's luxury car, Yagüe's BMW has sensationally been withdrawn from the auction after it was discovered to have been stolen in France.

The car was first registered in 2001 and again in 2004 when the Marbella local police purchased it at auction. It was given to Marisol Yagüe to use and was also driven by her bodyguard and boyfriend.

The first the local administration knew of the car's murky past was when a representative of a French insurance company arrived at the Town Hall to claim the car for its previous owners. Now the local police are investigating to see whether the auction company they bought it from was habitually dealing in stolen cars or if this was just a one-off. This is not the first instance of the former mayor having trouble with her cars. It is alleged that she accepted vehicles from the company that ran the municipality's tow service, amongst which was a Lexus RX 200 valued at over 48,000 euros.

 


Ear bitten off in Irish youth brawl

Violent fights common in Benalmádena nightlife zone, say locals

By Oliver McIntyre

BENALMÁDENA POLICE LAST WEEK ARRESTED A 17-YEAR-OLD IRISH BOY FOR ALLEGEDLY BITING PART OFF PART OF ANOTHER IRISHMAN'S EAR DURING AN EARLY-MORNING BRAWL IN THE TOWN'S PLAZA SOLYMAR NIGHTLIFE ZONE.

Officers arrived on the scene after receiving calls from several witnesses reporting the violent melee, which reportedly began with a confrontation between a group of around seven young Irish holidaymakers and the victim, another young Irishman who was not part of the group. The police found the young man lying on the ground bleeding profusely from the ear but unaware he had lost part of his lobe. Officers searched the area and found the missing piece of ear, which they put on ice to be taken with the victim to hospital.

The police chased down and arrested two of the alleged participants in the brawl, one aged 18 and the other, believed to be responsible for the ear biting, aged 17. Both were bloody and had cuts apparently caused by broken bottles.

'NO SURPRISE' Workers at businesses in the zone told Costa del Sol News the brawl took place across from the plaza, on the pavement near the 24-hour grocery store. When asked about the incident, several different workers at various businesses indicated that while this instance was perhaps more spectacular due to the ear-biting detail, it was nothing out of the ordinary. Fights and disturbances in the late-night party zone are so common that they don't generally surprise anyone, they said.

 


Police save Britons in apartment fire

By David Eade

The National Police in Fuengirola last week rescued a British man and his pregnant wife from their burning apartment. The police patrol was alerted by the couple's young son, who told them his parents were inside. The officers duly entered the flat, which was covered in thick smoke and pulled the couple to safety.

The police, helped by another three patrols, put out the blaze using the building's own fire-extinction system. They were especially worried about the possibility of gas bottles on the premises igniting, they later reported. The fire brigade soon arrived and ensured the fire was completely extinguished before carrying out an inspection of the apartment. Fire officials said the dining room of the apartment had been totally destroyed and that without the prompt action of the police the couple would have perished within minutes from the toxic fumes.

The British couple were taken to Marbella's Costa del Sol hospital to be treated for asphyxia and the officers who rescued them, both suffering from smoke inhalation, were taken to Las Lagunas health centre.

 


Teba celebrates Braveheart warrior

By Oliver McIntyre

The inland town of Teba last weekend paid tribute to 14th-century Scottish warrior James Douglas, who famously carried King Robert the Bruce's 'brave heart' into battle against the Moors in the town.

Robert the Bruce, lying on his deathbed having been unable to realise his dream of going on a Crusade, requested that after his death his heart be taken and carried into battle. The task was given to Douglas, who, with the embalmed heart in a small casket hanging around his neck, travelled to Spain to join the fight against the Moors.

During a battle at Teba, Douglas found himself isolated and surrounded by the enemy. Legend has it that upon realising he had no escape, Douglas took Robert the Bruce's heart from its casket and threw it at the Moorish warriors, shouting: "Forward, brave heart, as ever thou were wont to do, and Douglas will follow thee or die." His dead body was later found surrounded by a ring of dead Moors; he had battled valiantly to the end in honour of the memory of his deceased King.

Robert the Bruce's heart was later returned to Scotland for burial, as were the bones of Douglas. The warrior's bones were placed in the Church of St Bride in the town of Douglas. Today, local officials in Teba say there are plans for a twinning of the two towns. Last weekend's event in Teba was a celebration of Christian and Moslem cultures, including a medieval market, performance of Celtic, flamenco and Arabic music and other activities. Next month the town plans to inaugurate a James Douglas Interpretive Centre with programmes funded largely by EU grants.

 


Quick response saves homes from Los Álamos fire

By Oliver McIntyre

A FAST RESPONSE BY TORREMOLINOS FIREFIGHTERS AND LOCAL RESIDENTS STOPPED A GRASS FIRE ON A VACANT LOT IN LOS ÁLAMOS FROM GROWING OUT OF CONTROL AND ENGULFING NEARBY HOMES.

The fire broke out at around 17.00 last Thursday in a large fenced open space a couple of hundred metres from the Los Álamos beach. The zone, overgrown with highly flammable dry tall grass, is separated from a row of townhouses by just a narrow dirt road, posing a threat that the flames could quickly jump to the homes.

One resident used a garden hose from the nearest home to spray down a tree outside as a police officer helped another resident cut off the furthest-reaching branches. Meanwhile, firefighters blasted the quickly spreading blaze with their high-capacity fire hose and brought it under control before the flames had a chance to jump the dirt road. By 18.30 the firefighters confirmed that the blaze was completely extinguished and free of hotspots that could potentially reignite the fire. In all, between 3,000 and 3,500 square metres of the grassland was scorched.

PROBLEMATIC SITE
"We really need to file a complaint about this," local resident Margarita Barruezo told a Costa del Sol News reporter on the scene, referring to the overgrown open space. "It's a focal point for everything - for pests, for fires." A developer was going to build on the land but the project was halted a couple of years ago when archaeological ruins were discovered during initial earth moving at the site, said Sra Barruezo. Since then, the property has sat idle and been allowed to grow wild, with no maintenance or brush clearing, she said.

 


Residents want written guarantees on tranvía

By Dave Jamieson

Vélez-Málaga residents worried about possible damage from construction work on the tranvía extension have demanded assurances in writing from the Town Hall.

Although the first phase of the new light transport system which will link Vélez with Torre del Mar is not yet in public use, work is already underway to extend the line from its present Vélez terminal at Jurado Lorca park to the old railway station. Some weeks ago, those who live or have businesses in Calle Magallanes voiced their concerns about the project after cracks were found in some buildings.

Now, the representative of a collective of those concerned, including 13 community associations, has made the residents' demands clear. Rosa Blanca Medina said that they want "guarantees in writing that neither the present work nor the tranvía when it goes into service will affect the safety of the buildings." She said that until now the Town Hall had provided only verbal explanations in response to their complaints and a 500-signature petition.

 


Taxis accused of selecting high-paying fares

Airport assigns staff to patrol for driver misconduct

By Dave Jamieson

STRICTER CONTROLS ARE TO BE INTRODUCED AT THE MÁLAGA AIRPORT FOLLOWING SEVERE CRITICISM OF TAXI DRIVERS WHO HAVE BEEN SELECTIVE ABOUT WHICH PASSENGERS THEY WILL CARRY.

An average of 10 complaints per day have been reported about drivers who refuse to undertake short journeys, preferring to wait for more profitable fares to distant destinations. Municipal by-laws expressly prohibit taxi drivers from being selective about their fares, with offenders facing a fine of between 276 and 1,382 euros, which can be increased to 2,764 euros in very serious cases.

One man who recently flew into Málaga confirmed to Costa del Sol News that he had great difficulty in finding a taxi to take him to an address on the western side of Málaga city. "Despite my lack of Spanish," he said, "drivers made it very clear that they felt it was not worth their while to carry me and my luggage on such a short journey." Taxis charge a minimum of 12 euros to take a client into the city of Málaga, but the fare rises to around 80 euros if the passenger wants to be taken to a resort such as Nerja.

The director of the Municipal Taxi Institute (IMT) in Málaga, Ignacio Santa Cruz, said the group had received only 13 official complaints on the subject last year, but one of the 'yellow jackets' - supervisory staff recently contracted by airport operator Aena to help arriving passengers - said there are an average of 10 to 12 incidents daily related to taxi services. Most of these, he added, are to do with the selection of passengers. The helpers have also complained that some taxis skip the queue of vehicles waiting for passengers, which has led to confrontations between drivers. They have been calling for a protocol for controlling taxi operations at the airport, to be agreed by Aena, the IMT, trade unions and the local police.

Aena, however, has acted following a meeting last week between unions and management. They say that two of their 'yellow jackets' will be on hand at all times to oversee operations as passengers board taxis, ensuring that the first available car accepts them and that drivers do not jump the queue. Aena says a total of nine such supervisors will be on duty during the day, and 12 at night.

ILLEGAL TAXI SERVICES
However, the president of the salaried taxi drivers' association, Ángel González, questioned the effectiveness of the initiative and asked what authority the 'yellow jackets' have. He also called for a permanent presence of local police officers around the taxi queue and condemned the continuing presence of private motorists running illegal services to and from the airport.

 


Málaga set for 10 days of feria fever

The Costa capital's biggest party of the year starts tomorrow

MÁLAGA IS ALMOST READY FOR THE START OF ONE OF THE CITY'S MOST IMPORTANT WEEKS - THE ANNUAL FAIR WHICH BEGINS AT MIDNIGHT TOMORROW.

For 10 days, much of the day-to-day business of the capital will grind to a halt as residents are joined by hundreds of thousands of tourists to enjoy a tradition which has its roots going back more than 500 years.

When the Catholic monarchs Isabel and Fernando entered the city on August 19, 1487, a new chapter in Málaga's long history opened. For 700 years, it had been under the control of Arabs and had become a flourishing town surrounded by a wall with five massive gates and numerous suburbs. Following the re-conquering of the city, the Town Council declared that the day should be commemorated with a fiesta for the Málaga's patron saint, thus setting in motion the traditions which have led directly to the present annual fair, now one of the most important in Andalucía. The event declined by the mid 19th century to little more than a solemn mass, but since a revival on the 400th anniversary of the re-conquest, it has got bigger and better each year. To give a sense of its current scale, over 150m euros is expected to be poured into cash registers over the next 10 days.

The fair will begin on La Malagueta beach at 11.50 tomorrow night with the official opening speech, the 'pregón', to be given by Málaga flamenco singer Diana Navarro. Fireworks will follow at midnight and then the crowds will be treated to a concert starring Enrique Iglesias, Paulina Rubio and the Madrid punk band Pignoise, led by former Real Madrid player Alvaro Benito. Around 300 technicians from MTV will record the concert using a dozen cameras and seven kilometres of cables, with 1,000 kilowatts of lighting illuminating a stage 27 metres long and 24 metres wide.

Málaga's fair is split in two, with daytime events in the centre of the historic old town and the fun-fair at night on its own 512,000-square-metre site, Cortijo de Torres, alongside the motorway, close to the Conference Centre. When it is formally opened at 9.30 on Saturday evening, the fairground will consume enough power to maintain the city of Toledo, with over half a million lamps and lanterns lighting the way for revellers until dawn.

TIGHT SECURITY
Almost a thousand police and Guardia Civil officers will be on duty to keep order throughout the festivities. More metal detectors than ever before will be used at entrances to the night-time fairground in an effort to stop weapons being taken in, while the consumption and trafficking of drugs will be dealt with severely. The authorities have also warned that they expect several hundred petty criminals, including many pickpockets, to travel to Málaga during the fair to prey on the careless.

GETTING THERE
Public transport is the preferred method of getting to the fair. Málaga's buses are offering a special season ticket for 15 journeys at 9.95 euros, while single journeys at night will cost a flat fare of one euro.

At midnight a week on Sunday, another spectacular fireworks display will mark the end of the fair.

 


Satellite photos to identify water abusers

NEWS Staff Reporter

Regional officials are using a high-tech 'eye in the sky' to crack down on water-use abuses in drought zones. In March and April the Junta de Andalucía commissioned a series of photos from the Ikonos satellite, including infrared images that show the condition of vegetation in green zones. Armed with the photos, which cost 60,000 euros, officials can monitor whether irrigation is taking place in zones where it shouldn't, such as areas with only potable water supplies.

The satellite images identified nearly 6,000 hectares of green zones - areas covered in lawn, trees or shrubs - in the drought-affected areas of the western Costa del Sol, Málaga and the Guadalhorce Valley. At the time the images were taken, the western Costa was a declared drought zone, although spring rains led officials to remove the drought status as of June 1. Málaga and the Guadalhorce Valley remain official drought zones.

The Ikonos photos also provided a census of swimming pools in the photographed areas, which will help officials enforce rules on pool-filling in drought zones. In all, the images identified more than 33,000 pools, golf-course ponds and other manmade ponds, with a total surface area of more than two million square metres.

 


Half of Gaditanos earn less than 15,000 euros a year

Cádiz had second-highest average salary among Andalucía provinces

By David Eade

ACCORDING TO A RECENT SURVEY BASED ON DATA ISSUED BY THE SPANISH TAX AUTHORITY AROUND HALF OF THE EMPLOYED PEOPLE IN THE PROVINCE OF CÁDIZ EARN LESS THAN 15,000 EUROS A YEAR.

A quarter of workers take home less than 8,300 euros a month each, according to the tax figures. At the other end of the scale, only 6,800 people in the province earn more than 55,000 euros a month.

The study, based on data issued during the years between 1999 and 2004, shows the average Cádiz salary at 13,400 euros (£9,038). It is the second-highest provincial average in the region of Andalucía, exceeded only by Málaga, were the average is 13,600 euros. The Andalucía-wide average is 12,800 euros.

One factor weighing down the average Cádiz salary is the poor pay received by women wage-earners. On average the female workforce in the province earns 60 per cent less than the male; whilst the average income for men is 15,400 euros, for women it is just 9,800 euros. The major disparity between the sexes is found in industry, finance and insurance; employment that normally pays men well.

HIGHEST-PAYING JOBS
Despite the salary imbalance, those seeking to improve their income are urged to switch to the energy sector, finance and insurance. The best money is to be made working in the energy sector in the Campo de Gibraltar region, where the average is reportedly 28,300 euros a month, the best both in Cádiz and Andalucía in this field.

Also amongst the higher earners are those in transport and communications (18,500 euros) and industry (16,400 euros). Although health workers, at an average of 17,800 euros a month, beat the provincial earnings average, they are in fact the most poorly paid in their field in Andalucía.

 


Mixed messages on Golf-course regulation

Regional government representatives make conflicting statements

By Dave Jamieson

THE REGULATION OF GOLF COURSES IN ANDALUCÍA SEEMS TO BE CAUSING CONFUSION IN THE OFFICES OF THE REGIONAL GOVERNMENT.

Two prominent members of the Junta de Andalucía last week made conflicting announcements on the subject on consecutive days. First the head of Public Works, Concepción Gutiérrez, announced that, contrary to a promise made in 2000, there would be no new legislation introduced to cover the sector. In a press interview on Thursday, she said that such a move was not necessary since sufficient regulations already exist. There is no "legal vacuum", she insisted.

But on Friday, colleague Gaspar Zarrías contradicted her by saying that no decision had been reached on the matter and that further discussions would take place in the autumn. Sr Zarrías, who is number two in the Junta's executive, confirmed that any new law would regulate the construction of new golf courses and, importantly, their links to associated housing developments.

Over the last six years, the Junta has maintained that it is necessary to unify existing legislation and develop regulations specific to golf courses. It established a commission with representatives from the Public Works, Environment, Treasury, Environment and Tourism departments which has produced at least three draft documents gradually increasing the flexibility of housing projects linked to golf courses.

INDUSTRY SAYS LAW UNNECESSARY
However, none has met with the approval of the building sector, which has consistently argued that no such specific legislation is unnecessary, given the existing regulations. So, while Ramón Dávila of Promotour, the Andalucían Association of Residential Tourism and Sports Promoters, welcomed Thursday's announcement by Concepción Gutiérrez, he confessed to being disconcerted by Gaspar Zarrías' comments on Friday.

 


Iberia workers get deal but passengers may get not

NEWS Staff Reporter

As Iberia reached a deal with its ground workers in Barcelona following an impromptu 11 hour strike (CDSN last week), it appears that passengers caught up in the ensuing chaos may not be compensated for the inconvenience they experienced.

Almost 600 flights were grounded and an estimated 100,000 passengers stranded nationwide after the airline's workers at El Prat airport stopped work and blockaded the runways.

The regional government of Cataluña, the Generalitat, says the actions of about 200 workers whose presence on the runways prevented all landings and take-offs is not recognised strike behaviour. The councillor for Work and Industry in Barcelona, Jordi Valls, said this was likely to be interpreted by Iberia and the other airlines affected by the incident as 'force majeur', so freeing them from any liability.

Barcelona's municipal consumers office reported receiving about 70 complaints against Iberia, while up to last weekend Iberia's own customer service department had received claims from 13,152 passengers.

The Spanish Association of Air Transport Users and Professionals, Asetra, has lodged a criminal complaint against those employees of the airline whose actions triggered events, charging them with sedition, illegal detention and breaches of safety laws.

Meanwhile, Iberia says it lost 9.3m euros in the first six months of the year, compared with a profit of 30 million euros in the same period last year. The airline blames increasing fuel costs, and is looking forward to another grim half-year following last week's strike and the three-day stoppage by their pilots in July.

 



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