News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week March 11th to March 17th 2004.
MASSACRE IN MADRID
Hundreds of dead and injured as bombs rip through railway coaches
By Newsdesk Editor Danny Collins
AT LEAST 184 PEOPLE DIED AND MORE THAN 1000 WERE INJURED WHEN FIVE EXPLOSIONS RIPPED THROUGH MADRID'S RAILWAY SYSTEM YESTERDAY MORNING.
Three explosions occurred simultaneously at 07.55, at the height of the rush hour, on three commuter trains travelling towards the Atocha main line station in the south of the city. One train laden with office workers was blasted apart as it pulled into the Madrid terminus. Other explosions occurred on trains at Santa Eugenia and El Pozo de Tío Raimundo, two small commuter stations on the approach to Atocha. Two static bombs also detonated within the Atocha terminus. In total, 13 bombs were identified by Bomb Squad officers, some of which were booby traps aimed at emergency services arriving to aid the injured. At least four controlled explosions were carried out in streets surrounding Atocha.
DEATH TOLL RISING
As emergency services rushed to the sites, Home Office estimates of the number of dead and injured rose by the minute. By 18.00 yesterday, the death toll was confirmed at 173, although given the severe injuries suffered this is expected to rise over the weekend.
Although there was no immediate claim by terrorist groups, the outrage was laid firmly at the door of Basque terrorist organisation ETA. Speaking at a hastily convened press conference in the Spanish capital, PP government leader Mariano Rajoy claimed the attacks were aimed at suspending the general election scheduled for Sunday. He declared three days of public mourning and called on all Spaniards to unite against 'the common enemy of terrorism'. Sr Rajoy also pledged immediate aid for the families of victims.
Anti-terrorist agents have been braced for an attack in the capital since the discovery of 500 kilos of industrial explosive in a van intercepted near Madrid on February 29, when two ETA activists were arrested. But as Costa Blanca News went to press, Herri Batasuna, the political wing of ETA, was still denying the organisation's role in the attack, although political observers believe the denial is prompted by fear of massive public revulsion as the toll of innocent dead and injured mounts.
The Madrid attack is the worst terrorist outrage committed on the Spanish mainland. The previous highest death toll was in Barcelona in 1987, when 21 people died in a bomb attack by ETA on a crowded supermarket.
King Juan Carlos appeared on national television yesterday afternoon to address the nation and honour the victims and their families.
Telephone scam hits Costa
Consumers duped by extra-charge phone lines
By Oliver Mcintyre
BOGUS COMPANIES CONTINUE TO PREY ON CONSUMERS WHO ARE STILL NOT AWARE OF THE CHANGE FROM 900-PREFIXES TO 800-PREFIXES FOR EXTRA-CHARGE PHONE LINES.
Figures from the Secretary of State for Telecommunications have revealed that more than a thousand extra-charge lines have been shut down in the last year for ‘irregularities’.
Some underhanded ‘companies’ lure consumers to the 803-, 806- and 807-numbers – which charge up to 3.45 euros per minute – with bogus offers of free prizes, special deals or even employment opportunities. They then keep the caller on the line for as long as possible to rack up the charges (a 10-minute call could cost the consumer up to 34.50 euros – which would show up on the monthly phone bill).
OVER 200 COMPLAINTS
In the province of Málaga, the consumer-protection association Facua has received over 200 complaints related to telephone services, most of them related to the 800-number scams. The Association of Communications Consumers (AUC) says it has shut down 34 such numbers so far this year. Telephone company Telefónica estimates there are over 400 of the fraudulent lines in existence adding that a tighter control of them is difficult. This is due to the fact that there is such a wide variety of services the lines claim to offer, and the ‘companies’ can quickly and easily change names if forced to close down and launch a new 806-number to continue with their operations.
TACKLING THE PROBLEM
Consumers can block their phones from accessing the 800-numbers by calling their telephone operator and requesting the restriction. Their phone service will be set to automatically disallow calls to the extra-charge lines.
Partido Popular to win absolute majority?
PP forecasted to take central government while PSOE are strongest in Andalucia
By David Eade
SPAIN GOES TO THE POLLS THIS SUNDAY TO ELECT A NEW CENTRAL GOVERNMENT. IN ADDITION THE PEOPLE OF ANDALUCÍA WILL ALSO BE VOTING FOR A NEW REGIONAL GOVERNMENT.
The Grupo Joly opinion poll featured in last week’s Costa del Sol News showed that the voters of Andalucía would again return the socialist PSOE party to power in Sevilla, perhaps with an absolute majority. Now the CIS opinion poll of national voting intentions show that the Partido Popular will retain power also with an absolute majority for José María Aznar´s ruling party.
After two terms in office José María Aznar is standing down at these elections and the PP will be led by Mariano Rajoy. Likewise the main opposition party PSOE will go to the polls with a new leader at its head in J.L. Rodríguez Zapatero.
There are 350 seats up for grabs in the national parliament. The latest CIS poll shows that the PP will win 176 of those seats with the PSOE taking 131. If the actual voting goes that way then the PP would have an absolute majority of one over all the other parties.
PP TO LOSE SEATS IN PARLIAMENT
However it is not all good news for the PP. Whilst the party looks set for a third consecutive term in office it will have seven less deputies in Congress. By contrast whilst the PSOE faces another four years in opposition the number of its seats is set to rise by six.
The other major force in Spanish politics, the ultra left Izquierda Unida should gain one seat taking its total to 10. This would indicate a general shift to the left in Spanish voting intentions but not enough to unseat the PP. The remaining 33 seats will be shared amongst Spain’s regional parties.
Brits arrested for Álora real estate fraud
By Oliver McIntyre
Police have arrested two British men in relation to an alleged real estate scam in which dozens of British buyers of property in Álora were swindled out of a total of over 400,000 euros. The investigation began after some of the buyers contacted police in late January complaining that the company they’d purchased the land from had ‘disappeared’.
According to police reports, the bogus company was charging 17,000 euros apiece for 500-square-metre lots in a fictitious Álora mobile-home development called Lemon Falls. Marketing material included descriptions and pictures of an idyllic Guadalhorce Valley setting just minutes from the coast. The group even erected a roadside sign for Lemon Falls, though without any telephone number. But the company did not own the property, which actually belongs to a local resident and is zoned as non-developable.
According to police reports, the company attracted buyers via a Web site aimed at potential customers in the UK. Purchasers transferred their money directly into one of the company’s two Spanish bank accounts.
The arrested men, S.L.S. (36) and M.H. (25), were involved with two additional bogus companies allegedly involved in the fraud. The two men have been charged and released pending trial. Police say two of the principal scam operators have yet to be tracked down and arrested.
Airport strike off
The strike which threatened to paralyse Málaga airport on several days leading up to Easter has been called off. Airport operator AENA reached a deal with union representatives last week, ending a dispute centred on concerns about plans to privatise the business, which workers claimed would adversely affect 90 per cent of employees. Unions had planned a series of one-day stoppages at airports across the country in the weeks preceding Holy Week, traditionally a busy time for the tourist industry.
Family of coma victim demands answers
Health centre faces 'medical negligence' threat
By Dave Jamieson
A 46-YEAR-OLD NERJA MAN, LYING IN HOSPITAL IN A COMA, IS AT THE CENTRE OF A DISPUTE BETWEEN HIS FAMILY AND THE TOWN'S HEALTH CENTRE.
Jesús Silva Gaitán was in the town centre late in the evening of February 27 when he fell, cracking his head on the ground and losing consciousness. He came to some minutes later and was taken to the health centre, where he was diagnosed as having suffered a moderate epileptic attack.
A statement from the Distrito Sanitario de la Axarquía, which is in charge of the centre, confirmed that the patient was treated for his injuries and for excess alcohol in the blood, and, because his family could not be located, he remained at the centre. His brother, Enrique, was found the next morning and arrived at the centre around 11.30, when it was noted that Jesús was passing blood in his vomit. The alarm was raised and he was admitted to Vélez-Málaga hospital and, some four hours later, moved to Carlos Haya hospital in Málaga to be treated for "an extremely serious brain haemorrhage." The head of the hospital's Neurology Department was asked to examine the patient urgently, and later told the family that he may have suffered permanent damage.
Jesús remains in a coma in Carlos Haya, while his family is taking action to establish the Nerja health centre's "possible medical negligence." Enrique alleges that his brother remained alone at the centre for almost 10 hours, until he was moved to Vélez, and claims that nobody reviewed his medical history to discover if he was receiving medication for the epilepsy that had been diagnosed. He also alleges that Jesús was in a "deplorable" state by the time his family arrived at the centre, with vomit on his clothes and face. In a formal complaint to the health authorities, the family states that Jesús had involuntary movements on the right side of his body but total immobility on the left.
SAS DEFENDS HEALTH CENTRE
A spokesperson for the Andalucía Health Service (SAS) insisted that staff at the health centre had acted correctly. Rosa Carabaño said that the patient had arrived conscious and showing symptoms of alcoholic intoxication, and was evaluated in accordance with procedures. She said symptoms of a haemorrhage were not evident until much later.
Mijas' new 'Policía Urbanística' attacking illegal
By Oliver McIntyre
In less than a month after being created, Mijas' new 'Policía Urbanística' force, dedicated to cracking down on illegal construction, has patrolled some 2,000 kilometres of rural and urban roads, opened 34 proceedings, and halted 12 building projects. Among the paralysed works are five warehouses, some of them in flood zones, and an illegal cement factory. Several are residential construction projects.
The special police force, which works in collaboration with the local Environmental Patrol, was created as part of the Town Hall's drive to "put an end to illegal construction" in the municipality. According to Town Planning councillor Luis Vasco, illegal building affects the entire town, as structures go up without the appropriate supporting infrastructure and taxpayers later get stuck with the cost. He also points to environmental and aesthetic impacts of non-licensed works.
The Policía Urbanística's patrolling is backed up with fines of up to 75 per cent of the value of the illegal buildings, and the construction companies themselves can also be fined and have their equipment idled. Failure to comply with a halt order can bring fines of 600 euros every 10 days.
Dylan in Motril
The small coastal Granada town of Motril is to be one of just seven stops on folk-rock legend Bob Dylan's Spanish tour this summer, according to the Town Hall. The concert is scheduled for July 10, with tickets going on sale sometime in April at prices of about 35 to 40 euros, said Culture councillor Manuela Santiago. Dylan's other Spanish dates are in Barcelona, Benidorm, Córdoba, Madrid, León and Santiago.
Málaga’s high-speed trains on order
Engines and carriages coming from Canada and Germany
By Dave Jamieson
CONTRACTS TO BUILD THE HIGH-SPEED TRAINS DUE TO ARRIVE IN MÁLAGA IN 2007 HAVE BEEN AWARDED.
The railway company Renfe last week ordered 40 sets of the modern engines and carriages which will be used on the AVE line into Málaga, presently under construction from Sevilla, as well as for services in northern Spain. The Spanish company Talgo, in conjunction with the Canadian firm Bombardier will build 30 trains at a cost of 615 million euros, and maintain them for 14 years at an additional cost of 554.4 million euros. The remaining ten units will be built by the German constructors Siemens, with a price tag of 243 million euros, plus 190 million euros more for 14 years maintenance.
The Spanish-Canadian prototypes have been clocked at 359 kilometres per hour and can carry 318 passengers – 44 in Club Class, 87 in First Class and 196 in Tourist Class. 16 of these units go into service between Zaragoza and Lérida shortly, complete with air conditioning, individual reading lights, connections for computers and mobile phones, and music and video channels.
GERMAN ‘INTERCITY EXPRESS’
Those who arrive in Málaga aboard the German version, the Intercity Express 350 España, will have travelled south at around 350 kilometres per hour on units similar to those already operating in Germany and The Netherlands. These carry 404 passengers and include a VIP meeting room in its Club Class carriages, where all travellers have access to a video screen set in the headrest of the seat in front. Tourist Class carriages have special facilities for families and the disabled.
Fraudulent pet microchipping uncovered
By David Klein
A NUMBER OF VETERINARIANS ON THE COAST ARE BEING ACCUSED OF INSERTING PET-IDENTIFICATION MICROCHIPS BUT NOT REGISTERING DETAILS IN THE SPANISH NATIONAL COMPUTER. MICROCHIPPING WITHOUT REGISTERING IS A CRIMINAL OFFENCE.
Last year Andalucía created its own Animal Register, RAIA, managed by the Council of Andalucían Colleges of Veterinarians. According to the Málaga Small Animal Veterinary Association (AMVEAC), only vets and some administrations have access to the register. Before it existed, anybody could buy microchips (e.g. breeders, merchants, etc.) and inject them into pets, but they were unable to properly register the animal.
AMVEAC says this problem has now been solved: only vets are allowed to buy microchips, and each chip is registered in the vet’s name by the Official College of Veterinarians. The vets also receive special, numbered registration forms to go along with the chips. Before the introduction of the new system, some so-called ‘mobile vets’ would microchip a lot of animals – without ever actually registering them – and then disappear, according to AMVEAC. It says those times are definitely over now.
The association’s secretary, Dr Rainer Hörning of Coin, says: ‘We do not believe at AMVEAC that mobile vets should be allowed. Vets who are not linked to any veterinary clinic are completely out of control.”
DOGS FROM ENGLAND SHOULD BE REGISTERED IN SPAIN
When done properly with the appropriate registration, microchipping allows vets to identify lost animals. The Andalucían register is linked with other national and international identification systems, but vets do not have direct access to the British register. Foreigners who bring their animals to Spain must register their pets’ existing chips with a Spanish veterinarian (for a small fee) to ensure that a pet lost in Spain can be identified. No new microchip is necessary; the vet simply fills out the new forms, which will require the pet owner’s passport or resident number and Spanish telephone numbers.
The new November 2003 animal protection law makes identification for dogs and cats compulsory. The owner will receive a registration card within four to six weeks of having the microchip inserted in the pet.
Bay of Algeciras under environmental attack
By David Eade
Six thousand million kilos of carbon dioxide, 47 million kilos of sulphur oxide and 15 million kilos of nitrogen oxide are just some of the 22 contaminating agents that are pumped in to the water and air of the Campo de Gibraltar region each year by 12 industrial complexes on the Bay of Algeciras.
The statistics were produced by the European Register of Contaminating Emissions, an organization of the European Commission, in a survey conducted in 2001. It also identifies the Interquisa plant in the zone as being one of the top 20 dirtiest in all of Europe.
Interquisa expels in to the atmosphere 6,520,000 kilos of carbon monoxide, 107,000 kilos of nitrogen oxide, 631,000 kilos of volatile organic compounds (NMCOV), 6,640 kilos of hydrocarbons and 28,500 kilos of Benceno. It also pours a cocktail of contaminates in to the sea including arsenic.
The European Register of Contaminating Emissions operates under the European Agency for the Environment, which was set up by the European Commission in July 2000. The directive obliged member states to give information on its contaminating emissions every three years. There is also a website at www.eper.eea.eu.int/eper.