News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week April 1st to April 7th 2004.
Downpour Swamps Costa
Deluge wreaks havoc in Rincón de la Victoria
By Oliver Mcintyre
RINCÓN DE LA VICTORIA WAS SEVERELY HIT BY THE HEAVY EARLY-SPRING DOWNPOURS OF LAST WEEKEND’S RAINSTORMS, WITH OVERFLOWING STREAMS BREAKING THEIR BANKS AND WREAKING WIDESPREAD HAVOC AND SEVERE PROPERTY DAMAGE.
The town was the hardest hit of the Costa region, receiving a deluge of over eight inches of rain in one 24-hour period. The town’s main street, Avenida del Mediterráneo, became a virtual riverbed as roiling water gushed through, depositing tons of rocks, trees, mud and rubble. It swept some hundred vehicles along with it, many of which ended up half buried in the muck left behind when the water subsided.
Twenty-two homes were evacuated and about 70 people had to be rescued from either their flooded homes or inside their stranded vehicles, but there were no casualties reported. The Town Hall described the property damage as ‘heavy’, though it had yet to put a figure on the total value of the losses. The town’s business association said its initial estimate was that damages could exceed 30 million euros.
Emergency crews used heavy equipment to break away parts of the Paseo Marítimo, which was acting as a dam and impeding the floodwaters from flowing out to the beach. The flooding itself damaged other areas of the Paseo, and several sections of the old N-340 road through the town were destroyed, according to the Town Hall.
The drinking-water system was cut temporarily, and when it came back online the Town Hall recommended that residents boil tap-water before drinking it, as a temporary safety measure in case the flooding caused any contamination in the system.
EMERGENCY PLAN PUT TO TEST
Mayor José Jesús Domínguez activated the town’s emergency plan and some 400 municipal and emergency workers, including firefighters and other personnel from Málaga and surrounding towns, took on the salvage and clean-up work. Numerous construction companies put their heavy equipment to work to help with the enormous task of clearing away the tons of debris, according to the Town Hall.
The Mayor stated that there was no way the town’s infrastructure could have supported the huge amount of rainfall in such a short period. Some residents blamed the flooding on over-development in the town, with apartment buildings encroaching on streambeds and the shoreline, and drainage ditches covered or converted into buried culverts through urban areas.
Other Costa and inland towns were also hit hard by the heavy rains, receiving anywhere from two to over five inches on Sunday alone and suffering spot flooding and some property damage. After Rincón, the hardest hit areas were the Guardalhorce Valley and the Axarquía.
British company broken up in Anglo-Spanish money
By David Eade
A JOINT ANGLO-SPANISH OPERATION AGAINST MONEY LAUNDERING HAS SEEN A SERIES OF ARRESTS IN THE PROVINCES OF MÁLAGA, CÁDIZ AND ALMERÍA
In Spain more than 60 agents of the tax authority arrested 15 people in Málaga, Estepona, Nerja, Algeciras and Almería. Amongst them was Briton, Richard Neil Davison, who runs the Crompton Marine boat building company in Lowestoft. He has been described by the Spanish police as the head of the gang and was detained in Estepona.
The 15 are alleged to be members of a criminal team dedicated to laundering money from the proceeds of drug trafficking. They are also accused of supplying the high-speed launches used by drug smugglers to transport drugs from Morocco to the Andalucía coast.
In the various raids agents seized more than seven tons of hashish. They also confiscated a number of high-speed launches and blocked bank accounts containing millions of euros.
THE BRITISH CONNECTION
The investigations started 11 months ago when the authorities looked in to the relationship between the trafficking of hashish and the manufacture and sale of high-speed inflatable launches used for transporting drugs to Spain.
In the course of those investigations the name of the British-owned company ‘Crompton Marine’ kept coming to the fore. ‘Crompton Marine’ had been manufacturing high-speed launches in Estepona for a number of years and investigators claim they were sold to drug traffickers.
Agents have stated that in the 11 months during which they investigated ‘Crompton Marine’, the company manufactured more than 100 pneumatic high-speed launches. They also discovered there was a massive use of this make of launch by drug smugglers. In the recent ‘Operation Delta’, which led to the arrest of Manuel Charlín and seizure of 5,600 kilos of hashish, agents found that the launch used was a ‘Crompton’.
Mr Davison and the other 14 people involved in the case are being held by the authorities at the disposition of Estepona’s No.1 court. They are accused of a variety of charges including drug trafficking, public health offences, money laundering and tax offences.
Jim Jarvie, assistant chief investigator at HM Customs and Excise told the Costa del Sol News: “We work on a daily basis with our foreign law enforcement colleagues. The close co-operation with these authorities often results in the dismantling of international criminal gangs and the prevention of further harm to communities across the globe.”
Mobile-phone messages protect against credit-card
NEWS Staff Reporter
In their constant battle against costly credit-card fraud, some banks have launched a new system to alert customers every time their card is used to make a transaction. When their card is used to either pay for a purchase or withdraw money from a cash machine, people signed up for the new service receive an almost instantaneous SMS message on their mobile telephone. The message indicates the amount of the transaction and the balance of the account. If a customer has not been using the credit card at the time he or she receives a message, it serves as a warning that the card is being used by someone else.
Over 12,000 people in the province of Málaga are already signed up for the messaging service. Institutions like Unicaja, Cajamar, Bankinter and Visa are currently offering the service, and others indicate they plan to launch it soon. Some currently charge no fee for the messages, while others allow a certain number free per month and then charge a per-message fee (Bankinter, for example, charges .10 euros per message after the first 10 messages of the month). To either avoid fees or reduce the number of messages clogging their telephone, customers can request that messages only be sent for transactions over a minimum euro amount, which they can choose. Doing so, of course, leaves open the possibility that someone could fraudulently use the bankcard number for small transactions without the customer being notified.
According to Bankinter, it was the SMS-messaging system that first brought to light a recent credit-card-fraud case at a bogus Málaga town centre shoe store, where the scammers allegedly took customers’ card numbers and used them to make purchases or extract cash. One of the customers whose stolen card number was used was alerted immediately by receiving a message when the crooks made a transaction on the account.
Brit kidnapped in San Pedro
One suspect arrested but no sign of two others and kidnap victim
By David Eade
THREE MEN ARMED WITH PISTOLS AND SAID TO BE OF AN EASTERN EUROPEAN APPEARANCE KIDNAPPED A BRITISH RESIDENT OF MARBELLA LAST WEEK.
The incident happened at 12.15 Thursday in San Pedro's Los Almendros urbanisation, on the road to Ronda. The men were waiting for the victim in a street in the urbanisation and attacked him when he arrived in his vehicle. Two of the men forced him into a dark-coloured all-terrain vehicle with a Málaga number plate, and then drove off. Investigator's believe the third member of the gang drove off in the victim's car, which was later found abandoned in an access road to Puerto Banús.
The police were alerted to the kidnapping by the victim's wife. They immediately put out a Costa-wide search order for the all-terrain vehicle, but with no success. However, police have detained one of the alleged members of the kidnap group, though officers have refused to reveal the circumstances of the arrest. He reportedly refused to declare before a judge and is not co-operating with officers of the drugs and organised crime squad, who are working to rescue the kidnapped man.
VICTIM NOT IDENTIFIED
The British man has lived in Marbella for a number of years. Police have refused to reveal his identity but have indicated that he does not have a criminal record. Nonetheless, officers stated that the case could be another so-called 'settling of accounts' between drug gangs, although they stressed that they were not discounting any theory and were keeping open all lines of investigation.
Large gas explosions rock Alhaurín
NEWS Staff Reporter
Five fully loaded butane-delivery lorries exploded late last Wednesday night in the gas-canister storage yard located in the Alhaurín de la Torre industrial park. Each of the five trucks was loaded with some 70 or more gas canisters ('bombonas'). The powerful explosions at around 23.30 were heard throughout the municipality, despite the fact that the industrial park sits on the outskirts of town.
The loud bangs helped to bring emergency crews quickly to the scene, possibly preventing an even larger catastrophe, as the exploded and flame-engulfed trucks were burning right next to the open-air storage area where thousands of additional gas canisters were stacked on pallets. Firefighters from Málaga, as well as local police and Guardia Civil forces, responded to the emergency and had the flames - which witnesses said reached three storeys high into the night sky - under control within an hour and a half after the explosions. Also helping to stave off greater damage was the proper functioning of the safety valves on the butane canisters, which allow the gas to flow out rather than exploding inside the cans. The actual explosions are thought to have been mostly the petrol tanks of the trucks themselves.
There were no injuries or fatalities in the incident. The exact cause of the explosions is still not known, but investigators' initial reports indicated that there were no immediate signs of arson or vandalism.
Mijas enacts licence moratorium
NEWS Staff Reporter
Mijas Town Hall announced earlier this week that it has decided to suspend for one year the issuing of construction licences for developable land in the town.
The measure, which affects some 18 million square metres of land zoned for development (six million metres of which would otherwise currently be eligible for licensing), is aimed at ensuring that all future projects meet the relatively new regional land-use laws. It will also result in a greater amount of land set aside for affordable and subsidised housing, and act as a buffer against the out-of-control price increases caused by real-estate speculation and the residential tourism market, according to the Town Hall.
The licence moratorium does not affect projects that are already underway or have already been licensed. Also, the Town Hall indicates that individual projects could be exempted from the moratorium on a case-by-case basis if it is demonstrated that they meet all of the requirements of the regional land-use law.
San Pedro car park chaos
Traders express their fury over lost business
By David Eade
THE AVENIDA DE MARQUÉS DEL DUERO IN SAN PEDRO WAS CLOSED TO TRAFFIC LAST NOVEMBER AS PART OF THE PLAN TO BUILD AN UNDERGROUND CAR PARK BENEATH IT.
Now, five months on, the town’s main street still remains closed despite the fact that no construction work has yet started.
Not surprisingly business owners in the area have had enough. They recently met behind closed doors to discuss a plan of action, which could involve public protests and demonstrations plus a formal petition to Marbella Town Hall asking them to abandon the project.
Some traders have claimed that they have seen a 50 per cent drop in business since the avenue was closed. It has left the central trading street of the town looking like a battle zone and with the key summer months approaching businesses fear that not only will they lose more trade but customers may never return.
Under the original construction plan the Marqués del Duero was to be re-opened to the public in July. However a series of modifications to the project has meant that work has yet to start and even when it does it will continue for at least 16 months.
PETITION TO MOVE THE CAR PARK
One suggestion that the businesses will make to Marbella Town Hall is that they abandon the project of the car park in the Avenida de Marqués del Duero and move it across the N-340 to the Avenida del Mediterráneo, where a new urbanization is being built instead. They point out that is it only minutes away from the town centre, there are no problems with underground pipes or cables and there is ample space to work without causing chaos for local traffic.
The leader of the Partido Popular, Ángeles Muñoz, has expressed her support for San Pedro’s traders. She stated: “It is intolerable that a project of the scope of the parking in the Calle Marqúes del Duero has commenced, without a clear work project, without a budget to finance the works, without binding stages of execution and most of all, without the most minimal guarantees for undertaking this work.”
Controversy continues over Maro’s Arab finds
Petition for a museum goes ahead despite regional government’s lack of interest
By Dave Jamieson
NERJA IS TO ASK REGIONAL GOVERNMENT TO CREATE A SMALL MUSEUM IN MARO TO ACCOMMODATE THE RECENTLY FOUND ARAB REMAINS NEAR THE VILLAGE.
The councillors for education and culture, Angélica Portillo and Antonio Villasclaras, are putting forward the idea, despite the recent decision by the Junta de Andalucía not to protect archaeological find (CDSN, March 18-24) which provoked anger amongst local people who had hoped to protect the site.
As many as 431 graves of an Arabian village were unearthed last summer in an area known as El Lugarejo during construction work for the coastal motorway and are presently being examined by 20 experts. A recent letter from Maro residents to Nerja Town Hall asked for more information about the ancient cemetery, believed to be 800 years old, pointing out that historical data about the Maro and Nerja area is scarce, particularly as it relates to the Islamic era.
SUPPORT ON THE INTERNET
Interested parties have now taken to the Internet with a web page which asks for support ‘to force the relevant authorities to continue the investigation, extending it to the edges of the autovía, where study of the cemetery and other parts of the town can be continued’. It also points out the high level of academic interest in the discoveries, with numerous colleges asking to bring students to view the excavations, and its tourist potential, given the proximity to Nerja’s famous complex of caves. The local councillors want their proposed museum to include documents, photographs and a model of the burial site.
NERJA REMAINS ALSO UNDER DEBATE
Nerja is also debating the future of the 157 Arab graves found in late 2001 at Castillo Alto, the site of a planned commercial centre next to the motorway link road which also leads to Frigiliana. The cultural delegation at the Junta last week indicated that a decision should wait until archaeological investigations in the area have been concluded.
Residents protest at Torrox factory plans
News Staff Reporter
Opposition is growing in the Axarquía to the possibility of a new cement and asphalt factory being built in the area. Plans have been advanced for the plant’s construction on the border between Torrox and Vélez-Málaga on rural land, directly affecting 35 families who live there. The latest group to voice their protest is the Residents’ Association of Pago de Güi, who have written to the Junta de Andalucía to express their concern about an application to Torrox Town Hall by Antonio Maras S.L. to build the factory on a 42,000 square metre site. Not far away, in the urban expansion area of El Morche, there already exists such a plant belonging to Hormisur which has been the subject of complaints from local people on several occasions.
The Pago de Güi residents previously wrote to the Mayor of Torrox, asking him to deny authorisation and pointing out that as well as the inconvenience which would affect local people, the area is a rich agricultural area and home to a number of growers. Speaking for the group, Alfonso Castro said that to construct a cement factory in the area would be in direct contravention of Andalucía’s new land law which demands that the norms of environmental protection be observed and that the tourism interests of the zone be conserved.
Unions to take action at La Línea Hospital
By David Eade
Last Thursday the situation in La Línea Hospital emergency unit reached crisis level. In the afternoon, 32 patients had to be placed on beds and mattresses in the corridors, as there was no room for them in the hospital’s wards.
These latest scenes of chaos were amongst the most serious witnessed at the hospital. It has provoked the CCOO union into breaking off negotiations with the hospital’s management. The lack of beds has been a continuing crisis at the medical centre. The union says it will no longer accept any more excuses but will take industrial action until solutions are found.
Yesterday the union held a meeting of all workers in the emergency unit to announce an on-going series of protests that will commence today (April 1). The union justified their stance by stating that they were simply safeguarding the rights of the patients. A spokesperson said: “The patients don’t deserve this treatment, the attention to the patients at the hospital cannot wait to be improved and the workers can’t put up with this situation any longer.”
The dire situation at La Línea Hospital has also put the Punta Europa Hospital in Algeciras on full alert. The saturation and blocking of the emergency unit at La Línea will lead to patients being diverted to the Algeciras Hospital, which in turn could lead to overcrowding at that already busy medical facility.
Brit brings laughs to Axarquía
By Oliver Mcintyre
THE AXARQUIA REGION OF MÁLAGA HAS CHARMING WHITE VILLAGES, ROLLING HILLS AND PANORAMIC VIEWS. WHAT IT NEEDS IS COMEDY.
Or so says Steven Smith, a regular writer for London-based comedy show The Sitcom Trials. He’s forming a comedy group, Axarcomedy, here on the Costa and is looking for like-minded people to help bring on the laughs.
“To begin with, the emphasis is simply to get together a bunch of people that want to write comedy, whether sketches, sitcom or stand-up material,” says Steven. “The response to the recent WH Smiffs competition in Nerja proves that there are writers out there. If just a few of them can turn their hands to comedy, we’ll have something worth pursuing.”
WRITERS AND PERFORMERS SOUGHT
Steven is looking for not just writers, but also performers. “With enough interest, the intention is to host a regular comedy night, something that’s sadly lacking here,” he says. “Comedy is about performance. Until a script is performed and makes an audience laugh it’s not comedy.” Although he would gladly welcome Equity members, he says something else is more critical. “More important than experience is the willingness, nay, the desire to make a fool of yourself in public. Exhibitionists apply within.”
Although comedy writing has its serious side, the emphasis of the Axarcomedy group is firmly on fun, says Steven. “This is not a money-making venture. It’s just a way for us to get together, have a laugh and hopefully make others laugh at the same time.”
Those interested in writing, performing or otherwise getting involved can visit Steven’s Web site (www.axarcomedy.com) or give him a call on 952 53 32 89.