News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week March 27th to April 2nd 2003.
SPANISH WARSHIPS HEAD FOR IRAQ
Vessels to offer allied forces humanitarian support
By David Eade
THE ASSAULT VESSEL 'GALICIA', THE FRIGATE 'REINA SOFÍA', ALONG WITH THE PETROL TANKER 'MARQUÉS DE LA ENSENADA' HAVE LEFT THEIR BASE IN THE CADIZ PORT OF ROTA AND ARE HEADING FOR THE PERSIAN GULF WHERE THEY WILL OFFER HUMANITARIAN SUPPORT TO THE US-LED FORCES ATTACKING IRAQ.
Within hours of the launch of the aerial attack on Baghdad the 'Galicia' and 'Reina Sofía' set sail for the war zone. The 'Galicia' will act as a hospital ship and the 'Reina Sofía' will carry out an escort and protection role. As the speed of the tanker is less than the other two vessels the 'Marqués de la Ensenada' will follow at her own pace. She has the capacity to carry 8.3 million litres of fuel for ships and another 2.1 million litres for aircraft.
A contingent of 900 military personnel forms the crew of the three vessels. They include medical staff, marines and units of the Spanish army. However, the Spanish government has made it clear that whilst it supports the USA's actions in Iraq its own forces will not be involved in offensive attack missions.
It is estimated that the three naval ships will take between 12 and 16 days to arrive in the Gulf after sailing through the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, Red and Arabian Seas, before passing through the Straits of Ormuz. Spain already has a frigate and maritime patrol aircraft in the region.
SECURITY ALERT AT ROTA
As the war with Iraq got underway there was a noticeable increase in the already intensive air traffic at Rota. The radio station at the USA base broadcast a rise in the level of security and advised extreme caution against a possible terrorist attack. The Mayor of Rota, Domingo Sánchez Rizo, expressed his worry and added that the Town Hall had instituted in 1994 an emergency plan but stressed that it was only designed to handle an air accident or kerosene fire. He stressed that the community of 26,000 people were unprepared to cope with the fall-out from the war.
GIBRALTAR AT THE READY
In Gibraltar, the Ministry of Defence has placed all forces on a heightened state of alert. The Governor of Gibraltar, David Durie, assured Gibraltarians that the various security agencies were fully prepared to tackle a terrorist attack or any other emergency situation. The most noticeable increase in security is at Gibraltar Airport where armed police now patrol the terminal, escort passengers to and from their aircraft and patrol the perimeter fence. Members of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment have been in Kuwait for the past two months with the 102 Logistics Brigade of the Royal Irish Regiment and the Royal Fusiliers and will carry out the same duties as their British counterparts.
COSTA BEACHES SEVERELY DAMAGED
Storm damage repairs may not be ready in time for tourist season
By Oliver McIntyre
THE HEAVY STORM DAMAGE EXPERIENCED EARLY LAST WEEK ON BEACHES ALL ALONG MÁLAGA'S COASTLINE IS TOO SEVERE TO BE REPAIRED IN TIME FOR THE ARRIVAL OF THE TOURIST SEASON
All along the coast - though more severely on the western side of Málaga than to the east of the capital city - beaches suffered damage to public facilities, restaurants, and beach rental equipment. However, the worst damage came from the loss of thousands of tons of sand, much of which had previously been added to the coastline in order to create the wide beaches popular with residents and tourists. The Costa del Sol Tourism Board has estimated the total monetary damage in the province at between 24 million and 30 million euros.
According to the Ministry of the Environment's Coastal Department for the province of Málaga, there is very little likelihood that all of the beach damage can be repaired in time for Easter, which begins April 13. The Coastal Department indicated that it would request immediate action from the Ministry, but even in the best case scenario, department head Juan Carlos Fernández Rañada was not optimistic about the condition of the beaches for the big holiday crowds.
Despite all the negative reports, some Costa municipalities, such as Torremolinos, made a concerted effort last week to highlight the fact that damage to their beaches was not as severe as some reports made out. Torremolinos Town Hall says that the town's Paseo Marítimo has been cleared of sand and other storm debris, and its beaches are ready for use.
BREAKWATERS A SOLUTION?
The Beach Businesses Association and other groups have called for the construction of semi-submerged breakwaters at beaches all along the coast, which they say have been effective at protecting some beaches where they have already been installed. However, the Ministry of the Environment says the breakwaters, which reduce the force with which waves hit the shoreline, also impede the natural process of sand being returned from the sea floor to the beaches.
BEACH DAMAGE ON THE COSTA
Málaga (province): 80 per cent of the province's 500 beach bars and kiosks damaged; total damages up to 30 million euros.
Vélez-Málaga: Local PSOE party asked Environment Ministry for 7 million euros to ensure beaches repaired before Easter.
Torrox: Ferrara Beach lost between 8 and 15 metres of sand; Peñoncilla Beach lost 15 metres and is now without sand.
Benalmádena: Mayor estimates damages at 360,000 euros.
Torremolinos: 5,000 tons of sand had to be removed from La Carihuela beachfront promenade.
Marbella: Town Hall says 50,000 cubic metres (3,000 lorry loads) of new sand needed.
Estepona: estimated damages of 713,000 euros.
JAIL REQUESTED FOR DOLORES VÁZQUEZ
By Oliver McIntyre
Alicia Hornos, mother of Rocio Wanninkhof, the 19-year-old girl who was abducted in Mijas in October 1999 and whose body was found in Marbella a month later, has announced she will file a motion requesting that the prime suspect, Dolores Vázquez, be jailed while awaiting her retrial. Ms Vázquez was previously found guilty for the murder, but the Spanish Supreme Court two weeks ago upheld an Andulucía Superior Court ruling that nullified her 15-year prison sentence and called for a retrial.
In a press conference last week, Ms Hornos' lawyer indicated that Ms Vázquez should be held in jail pending the retrial, just as she was held in jail leading up to and during the original trial. According to the attorney, the new trial might not get underway until after summer, due to busy court calendars.
Despite the nullification of the original trial results, Alicia Hornos says she is still certain about Dolores Vázquez's guilt. Her only question, she says, is whether the suspect acted alone or with one or more accomplices.
MENINGITIS DEATH IN MARBELLA
Regional government confirms the death to be an isolated case
By David Eade
THE PROVINCIAL DELEGATION OF HEALTH OF THE REGIONAL GOVERNMENT HAS ACTED QUICKLY TO ALLAY PUBLIC FEARS AFTER A 14-YEAR-OLD GIRL DIED IN MARBELLA ON FRIDAY FROM MENINGITIS.
A spokesperson said there was no cause for alarm as all indications are that this was an isolated case. The victim of the meningitis type C was a stage three pupil at the Instituto Miraflores in Marbella. She was diagnosed with the illness on March 10 and immediate steps were taken to inoculate the other 27 pupils in her class.
The health delegation spokesperson stressed that the victim's classmates have been under observation as well as receiving preventative treatment for two weeks. As there have been no signs of anybody else contracting the illness the health experts are confident there is no further danger.
One reason as to why the disease may not have spread to the victim's classmates is that the bacteria are more easily transmitted amongst younger age groups.
As previously reported in the Costa del Sol News the last known case of meningitis in Marbella was discovered last December. A child was diagnosed with meningitis at a municipal nursery school in Las Albarizas and is now recovered from the illness.
BIOLOGICAL WARFARE COURSE
Professionals from Marbella's Costa del Sol hospital, the district health authority and health centres will be attending a series of courses from this Friday at the hospital. Amongst the subjects being covered are biological attack by terrorists, immigration, child maltreatment and professional responsibility
Torremolinos challenges land-use law
By Oliver McIntyre
Torremolinos Town Hall last week filed a suit challenging the constitutionality of the Junta de Andalucía's two-month-old 'Ley del Suelo' law, which places restrictions on urban growth and land use. Specifically, the town council - which passed the motion despite 'nay' votes from its PSOE and IU representatives and the abstention of its other opposition parties - identified 17 items in the law that it says are contradictory to at least three articles of the Spanish constitution.
In its motion, the Town Hall highlighted its dissatisfaction with the scope of jurisdiction the Ley del Suelo grants to regional government in matters of local urban planning. In particular, it pointed to the power given to the Junta to suspend modifications to urban growth plans and to put two-year moratoriums on all urban planning projects. The dissenting parties in the Town Hall, in contrast, indicated their support for the limits on development established in the Ley del Suelo.
While Torremolinos is the first town to actually file suit against regional government's land law, at least two other PP-controlled town halls - those in Fuengirola and Alhaurín de la Torre - have recently indicated their intention to challenge the constitutionality of the law.
MÁLAGA OPENS PRESTIGIOUS NEW CONFERENCE CENTRE
Low-key ceremony follows war effects and tragic site accident
By Dave Jamieson
MÁLAGA'S NEW EXHIBITION AND CONFERENCE CENTRE IS FINALLY OPEN AND WORKING. MORE THAN 700,000 PEOPLE ARE EXPECTED TO VISIT THE PALACIO DE FERIAS Y EXPOSICIONES DURING THIS YEAR, FOLLOWING ITS FORMAL INAUGURATION AND THE START OF ITS FIRST TRADE SHOW.
However, the opening ceremonies turned out to be more low-key than originally envisaged. First, an invitation to a member of the Royal Family was turned down because of the proximity of the municipal elections. Then, the day before the opening, Spain's vice-president, Mariano Rajoy, cancelled his attendance because of the war in Iraq. This, combined with the death of a site worker in an accident, resulted in the event being toned down, the authorities suspending the formal dinner which usually accompanies such an inauguration. In the further absence of the president of the Junta de Andalucía, the opening was conducted by Málaga's Mayor, Francisco de la Torre, and the councillor responsible for the economy, Magdalena Álvarez.
The construction worker's death followed an accident three days before the opening, when a 49-year-old man suffered head and body injuries after falling from a height of five metres. He died two days later in Carlos Haya Hospital, while a second injured man was being treated for a number of fractures in the Hospital Clínico Universitario. A minute's silence was observed at the centre's inauguration for the dead man, while trades unions used the opportunity to announce they would formally complain against Málaga Town Hall and its Mayor, who they consider ultimately responsible.
INNOVATIVE LOCAL ARCHITECT
The new centre, designed by local architect Ángel Asenjo Díaz, is regarded as a major addition to Málaga's architectural skyline, and it is expected that, once the new Justice Centre is built nearby, a new business nucleus will have been created in the west of the city. Authorities say there will also a considerable economic impact, including tourism generated by visitors to conferences and exhibitions, estimated to reach 55.9 million euros by 2005. There are presently two exhibition halls totalling 16,395 square feet and four conference rooms catering for up to 1,000 delegates, with space for further development in the future. It has taken 500 workers two years and six months to construct, cost more than 60 million euros, and created 692 new jobs.
The first event, Hostelequip, opened the same day with 140 exhibitors and hopes of 15,000 visitors. The five more trade fairs, six exhibitions and 11 conferences already booked are expected to see 200,000 people pass through the centre's doors by the end of the year.
Taxi drivers alarmed by recent armed robberies
By David Eade
The drivers employed by the taxi companies in Marbella have demanded an urgent meeting with the Town Hall and their employers. The drivers are alarmed at the escalation of armed robberies with three having taken place in the past seven months.
As previously reported in the Costa del Sol News the first robbery was last September when two people armed with knives robbed a driver in Arroyo Primero. Last month another taxi driver was held up at knifepoint in Nueva Andalucía and this month two men held a gun to the head of a taxi driver in La Carolina.
The spokesman for the employed taxi drivers, Eduardo Mena, said their immediate demands were very simple. The drivers want grants to pay for the installation of security screens in their vehicles as well as digital security systems, which shows their location in the event of an emergency. The drivers have also demanded intensive police vigilance in the various zones of Marbella, which are known to be trouble spots.
Currently only three of the 232 taxis operating in Marbella have security systems installed. The taxi operating company Taxisol has stated that it is looking to the local town hall to make a satisfactory response to the project of installing safety screens and GPS tracking systems.
CÁDIZ BIDS FOR THE AMERICA CUP
Other Spanish cities also in running to host the big sailing event
By David Eade
THE BAY OF CÁDIZ IS MOUNTING A STRONG BID TO HOST THE NEXT AMERICA CUP CHALLENGE. PROVINCIAL AUTHORITIES MADE AN IMMEDIATE BID TO HOST THE NEXT EDITION OF THE MAJOR SAILING EVENT AFTER IT WAS WON THIS YEAR BY THE SWISS YACHT 'ALINGHI'.
As Switzerland is a landlocked country, it has to find another location in Europe to host the next edition of the race. Other Spanish cities, such as Palma de Mallorca, Valencia, Barcelona and Vigo, are also in the running. And other coastal European countries such as France and Italy are also expected to make strong presentations.
The first challenge facing Cádiz is to survive the primary cut of would-be candidates, which is expected to take place during the middle of next month. Those who make it through the initial selection process will then be granted an equal amount of time in which to make formal presentations. The winner will be decided before December 15.
The Cádiz bid is being prepared by Consorcio Mundo Vela, under the direction of José Ramón Domenech, who says that one advantage for Cádiz is its experience hosting other major yachting events. In 1992 it hosted the 'Primero con Mundo Vela', and it will also be hosting the 'Campeonatos Mundiales de Clases Olímpicos Mundo Vela 2003'. But Sr Domenech stressed that it is not only past experience at staging world-class yachting events that stands in Cádiz's favour. He pointed to the good meteorological conditions found in the bay, an exceptional social climate, plus the political backing of both the regional and local government teams.
MONEY AT STAKE
There is more than honour at stake for the winners of the bid to host the America Cup. Accountants Ernst & Young estimate that the event is worth around $700 million in income to the hosting region, with the yachting, transport, construction, hotel, medical service, commerce, leisure, media and general business sectors all benefiting.
THOUSANDS OF NEW TREES FOR THE PROVINCE
Málaga marks World Forestry Day
By Dave Jamieson
Last week 37,000 trees were planted throughout the province of Málaga. More than a thousand schoolchildren, local public officials, and candidates in May's municipal elections participated in events in 93 municipalities to mark World Forestry Day. However, plans for tree-planting ceremonies in Nerja had to be postponed because of poor weather. The change of plan meant disappointment for students of Joaquín Herrera in Nerja, and Maro's Virgen de las Maravillas.
On the same day, the Junta de Andalucía announced that it had restored 4,980 hectares of forest by planting two million trees in the last 18 months. The Environment Delegate, Ignacio Trillo, said that Andalucía is seriously effected by high levels of erosion in the countryside, due to insufficient tree coverage. Meanwhile, the Partido Popular is calling for the EU to invest 721 million euros in the reforestation of Andalucía, saying it falls well under the average 25 percent tree coverage throughout the world.