Costa del Sol News - 7th August 2009

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

News Archive In association with

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

Swine flu victims stranded at Tarifa's port

By David Eade

Three young Moroccans were stranded at Tarifa's port until late on Tuesday night after they came down with the symptoms of swine flu whilst attending a summer camp in Sevilla.

It was decided that they should be immediately returned home but it was at that point that matters became rather chaotic. They arrived at the port on Sunday evening but the Kingdom of Morocco issued orders banning them from taking a ferry to Tanger.

They were well looked after in Tarifa while talks took place between the FRS passenger line and Moroccan officials. Fellow travellers obviously did not wish to contract the virus and there were also concerns over the crew. In the end the Tanger Jet ferry made a special journey just to take them across the Straits.

The girls aged between 16 and 17 years were accompanied by a doctor and a parent of one of the group. Following their departure the area in Tarifa port where they had been staying was thoroughly cleaned and a similar procedure was carried out on the ferry.

Alarm at swine flu cases at Jerez hospital

There have been media reports about alarm amongst patients and families at the emergency unit at Jerez Hospital after four people went there with swine flu symptoms on Monday.

Andalucía earthquake safety on shaky ground

Modern construction may not be quake-proof, says seismic expert

By Dave Jamieson

Up to 75 per cent of new buildings in Andalucía may not be adequately protected against earthquakes.  A leading seismic engineer said last week that constructors are observing the letter of the law, but not the spirit.

Ricardo García Arribas was speaking at a summer conference on seismic predictions organised by Málaga University when he warned that a severe earthquake in the region could have serious consequences.  Sr García, a member of the Spanish Seismology Association, said that lessons should be learned from countries such as the US and Japan where engineers have devised the best ways to prevent and mitigate damage from seismic activity, resulting in technical requirements which should govern design and construction at urban level.

“In Spain,” he said, “due in part to a lack of historical memory of recent important catastrophes, planning and building is conducted without respect for the scientific principles which determine the norms.” 

Health minister speaks out on swine flu

Trinidad Jiménez gives treatment advice and announces that under-14s to be vaccinated

By David Eade

Britons living in Spain who have seen all the media hype in the UK over swine flu might be feeling rather anxious. However the truth of the matter is that at present they are less likely to catch the virus here than back home.

According to data issued by the EU on July 22 there are around 18,000 cases in Europe. Of that number over half, 10,649, are in the UK whilst Spain only has 1,486.

Last week the minister for health, Trinidad Jiménez, went on the radio to give advice regarding swine flu. She urged people only to go to a hospital emergency department if their symptoms are serious. The minister says that anyone with normal initial flu symptoms such as high temperature, cough, headache and difficulty in breathing, should go to their GP or health centre, to avoid hospital emergency departments becoming overcrowded. The local doctor will then decide whether anti-viral medication should be given. If symptoms are severe, however, then emergency treatment should be sought.

First cases in Gibraltar

Up to last week there had been no reported cases of swine flu in Gibraltar, which was perhaps surprising given the large numbers travelling to and from the UK.

Aifos enters voluntary administration

Costa property giant seeks bankruptcy protection to restructure billion-euro debt

By Oliver McIntyre

Aifos last week entered voluntary administration with debts of more than one billion euros to some 2,000 creditors. 

The company reportedly agreed the move with the Málaga mercantile court following an unsuccessful two-month process of attempting to negotiate a payment restructuring plan directly with its major creditors.

Banks, suppliers and other creditors, including home buyers whose properties were never built and delivered, have a month following the publication of the bankruptcy in the Official State Bulletin to file their debt claims with the court.

The company’s chief creditors are Caja Madrid, Banco Popular, Caja España, Cajasol and Banesto, while it also has debts to other banks including La Caixa, BBVA, Caixa Galicia, Unicaja and Banco Pastor.

In a short written statement last week Aifos said its goal was that the administration process will “guarantee the construction of the 3,000 homes contracted to clients and their delivery in the shortest time possible.”  It said the process will “allow the restructuring of the company’s debt in order to combat the real estate crisis and guarantee the company’s survival.” 

Sugar buys Byblos

Just as the company was entering receivership last week, it was reported that British businessman Sir Alan Sugar was the winning bidder in a previously court-ordered auctioning of Aifos’s five-star Hotel Guadalpín Byblos in Mijas. 

Labour reform talks not working

Tensions grow as government dismisses employers’ demands

By Dave Jamieson

Tensions between the government and employers increased last week as the prime minister put the blame on business leaders for a failure to reach an agreement on changes to employment law.  Sr Zapatero said on Friday that their proposals would, “put Spain back years.”

The Spanish Confederation of Employers and Industries (CEOE) has been calling for change as the economic crisis continues to hit its members hard.  Talks last week between the government, employers and unions debated a raft of proposals but ended without agreement, following which the government announced that it would move unilaterally.  It plans subsidies for employees who are ineligible for full unemployment benefits.

A central point of the employers’ demands is a reduction in the monthly social security payments which they are obliged to make for each employee.  They had initially proposed a five per cent drop, then reduced the demand to 2.5 per cent last week, but the government has stood firm on its offer of a 0.5 per cent reduction now, followed by a further cut of one per cent next year.  Key to Sr Zapatero’s reasoning is the warning from Employment Minister Celestino Corbacho that a drop of one per cent in the rate of social security payments would cost the treasury 3.6 billion euros.