News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Week August 19th to August 25th 2004.
Home prices increase 18 times more than wages
JBy Oliver McIntyre
The National Statistical Institute (INE) has issued a report stating that over the last five years housing prices in Spain have increased 18.6 times more than average salaries.
The report goes on to confirm that between 1999 and the end of 2003, the average cost of residential real estate increased 80.25 per cent, from 792.29 euros per square metre to 1,428.16 euros per square metre. Meanwhile, salaries increased 18.5 per cent, but after accounting for general inflation, consumers’ purchasing power rose just 4.3 per cent, or 18.6 times less then the housing price increase.
Madrid, with an average housing cost of 2,485.08 euros per square metre, is the country’s most expensive, 74 per cent higher than the national average and four times more than Extremadura, the least expensive region. Within regions, specific provinces or areas can vary greatly as well, as evidenced in Andalucía, where the overall average is below the national average but in Málaga and the Costa area prices are higher.
LOAN PAYBACK UP TO 30 YEARS
In addition to the soaring prices, the increase in the average loan payback period – from 15 years in the mid- to late-1980s to 30 years now – means that young people currently buying real estate will take double the time their parents did to purchase their home, according to the banking consumer group Ausbanc. Because prices are so much higher now, the stretched-out payback period does not result in lower monthly mortgage payments, even though interest rates are much lower, says Ausbanc.
Figures from the Banco de España show that overall individual debt load is on the increase, with the average Spaniard currently owing 17 per cent more than a year ago. An INE survey indicates that in Andalucía most households make to the end of the month with ‘some’ or ‘much’ difficulty and are unable to put away savings.
King to be tried alone in Wanninkhof case
Charges against Dolores Vázquez and Robert Graham dismissed
By Oliver McIntyre
ACCUSED DOUBLE-MURDERER TONY ALEXANDER KING WILL BE TRIED ALONE FOR THE 1999 KILLING OF 19-YEAR-OLD ROCÍO WANNINKHOF IN MIJAS, BASED ON A COURT RULING LAST WEEK THAT FORMALLY DISMISSED THE CHARGES AGAINST THE OTHER TWO PEOPLE INVOLVED IN THE CASE, DOLORES VÁZQUEZ AND ROBERT GRAHAM.
The judge based her decision on her understanding that ‘the results of the extensive investigation to date do not indicate the existence of evidence of criminality to justify the continuation of proceedings’ against Vázquez and Graham. Dolores Vázquez was originally tried and found guilty of the murder of Rocío Wanninkhof and spent 17 months in prison before the higher courts overturned the sentence and called for a retrial. It was while she was awaiting the retrial that Tony King became the chief suspect in the case when he was arrested for the 2003 murder of 17-year-old Sonia Carabantes in Coín and it was found that the DNA samples that linked him to that case also matched samples found on a cigarette butt at the Wanninkhof crime scene.
VAZQUEZ AND GRAHAM CELEBRATE
The judge’s ruling provisionally drops all charges against Vázquez (they could be reinstated if future evidence emerges linking her to the crime), returns to her the 180,000-euro bail deposit she made and nullifies the embargo on her home. Immediately following the ruling, friends and family members of Dolores Vázquez celebrated with ‘cava’ (Spanish champagne) in the Mijas restaurant she owns.
In her ruling, the judge indicated that while there is evidence that Robert Graham may have covered up information about the crime, there is no evidence placing him at the scene or directly connecting him to the killing. King confessed to the murder in his initial statements to police after being arrested, but later gave testimony in which he accused Graham of killing Rocío Wanninkhof.
JUDGE’S RULING TO BE APPEALED
The lawyers for both Tony King and the family of Rocío Wanninkhof indicated that they planned to appeal the judge’s ruling. They want all three parties to face charges and go to trial in the case.
Meanwhile, the family of Sonia Carabantes in Coín, honouring the first anniversary of her murder on August 14, called for a timely beginning to the trial of King in that case. Around the same time, the family of María Teresa Fenández, a teenage girl who disappeared from Motril in August 2000, issued calls for Motril police to be allowed to interrogate King regarding that case. In particular, they want a further exploration of statements King made in a letter to his ex-wife, in which he allegedly wrote: “I’ll make Graham pay for what he did to Rocío and that girl in Motril.”
Brit child-porn paedophile arrested
By Oliver McIntyre
A British man was arrested last week in Benalmádena for allegedly posting child-pornography images on at least seven Web pages, using Internet connections at cyber-cafes in Benalmádena Costa and Arroyo de la Miel to upload the images.
Police say Andrew Kenneth B. (48), alias Andrew Kennedy, posted photographs of minors, many of them very young, who were naked or partially naked and/or engaging in sexual behaviour between themselves or with adults. When making the arrest, officers seized 18 computer diskettes and 11 CDs containing 284 photographs of girls aged between three and 12. Also found in the man’s possession was a toiletries kit filled with makeup, cheap jewellery and candies. Police also confiscated a camera that contained photos of the man with a naked girl.
According to police, the British man is well known to law-enforcement agencies back home, having been previously condemned to four years in prison for sexual attacks against four 16-year-old girls in 1994. At the time of his arrest in Benalmádena, there was an international arrest warrant out on him for failing to appear at a hearing in the UK related to other child-pornography charges. The man is from the Essex town of Hornchurch but was living in Benalmádena.
The police investigation began after various reports from Internet-café users raised suspicions about the man’s activity. The photographs seized by police have been sent to the Central Technology Crime Unit in Madrid to be analysed and to try to identify the minors who appear in the photos, as well as possible other Web pages where the images might have been posted. Some of the victims have already been identified and their parents contacted, according to police. The man apparently preyed on girls in his immediate surroundings and police believe he acted alone and was not part of any organised child-pornography ring.
Second most dangerous roads in Spain
Cádiz most dangerous province in Andalucía
By David Eade
The roads of Andalucía are the second most dangerous in Spain with 25 per cent of the accident ‘black spots’, a total that is only exceeded by Madrid.
According to statistics recently released by the Director General of Traffic last year there were 959 locations in Spain defined as being especially dangerous which represents a 12.7 per cent increase on 2002.
In 2003 there were a total of 3,943 accidents in Spain with 268 fatalities. In Andalucía there were 652 accidents in which 43 people lost their lives and 1,839 were injured. In the national league table Madrid leads the way with 261 ‘black spots’ followed by Andalucía on 227 with a big drop to third placed Cataluña with 151.
Of the dangerous locations in Andalucía, 36 per cent are on state roads, 82 are roads under the control of the regional government whilst 17 are the responsibility of the various provinces and just one is a municipal road. Roads to avoid are the SE-30 and A-92 in Sevilla, the N-IV and A-7/N-340 as it passes through Cádiz and Málaga as well as the N-432 and NA-323 in Granada and Almería.
The province of Cádiz is the most dangerous province in Andalucía to drive in accounting for 55 of the most lethal stretches of road. In second place is Sevilla (49), then Granada (40), Málaga (30), Córdoba (21), Jaén (16), Almería 10 and finally Huelva on 6.
The Director General of Traffic defines a location as an accident ‘black spot’ if within a 12-month period it is the scene of three or more accidents with victims. In contrast there are also ‘white’ stretches of road being defined as areas where no fatalities have occurred over a five-year period. According to the Spanish Association of Roads (AEC) this accolade only applies to 1,868 kilometres of road, just 12 per cent of the national total.
Nerja's dry day
Pipe break leaves some without water for over 30 hours
By Dave Jamieson
MOST OF NERJA WAS WITHOUT DRINKING WATER FOR MANY HOURS AT THE END OF LAST WEEK FOLLOWING A MAJOR BREAKDOWN IN THE MAIN SUPPLY TO THE TOWN.
The breakage was in the pipe which lies along the bed of the Chillar River and feeds water into tanks at Campillo de Vidro and Almijara, which have a capacity of 5,000 cubic metres. Taps began to run dry at 16.30 Friday and while supplies were restored in some places within 10 ten hours, other areas, including Tropicana and Punta Lara, were without water until late on Saturday night, a dry spell of more than 30 hours for the worst affected.
Businesses in the town were quick to complain about the high-tourism-season breakdown, with one restaurant owner describing it as a "very serious problem." Several business owners commented on the lack of information available when the water went off, and said the chaos which ensued created a bad image for visitors. Supermarkets had a sudden run on bottled water, with reports of sales quintupling, and claims of exploitation came from the customers of at least one shop where a litre suddenly doubled in price, from 65 cents to 1.30 euros, when the owner realised what was happening.
Nerja's councillor responsible for water supplies, José Alberto Tomé Rivas, said that while the breakage had been repaired at around 01.00 Saturday morning, it then took some time for the empty deposits gradually to refill in order to supply the network, meaning that some areas had water restored before others.
CALLS FOR BACKUP SYSTEM
The incident has lead to calls for the Town Hall to provide an alternative main pipe to guarantee a supply of drinking water, so that a breakage would not produce a repeat of last week's events, particularly when the town's population is at least trebled with holidaymakers. During the first fortnight of August, the influx of tourists means the area uses as much water as it usually does in three months.
Political sparks fly in Benalmádena Hall meltdown
NEWS Staff Reporter
Local politics in Benalmádena heated up last week as Mayor Enrique Bolín dismissed from his coalition governing team three of the four Partido Popular councillors that made up the non-GIB-party portion of the coalition. The move came in the wake of several contentious and public disagreements between the PP councillors and the mayor's GIB party, in particular regarding a plan for three 20-storey buildings in Arroyo de la Miel (recently reduced to two buildings following sharp political and public opposition to the plan), a proposed local monorail and other urban-planning issues.
The fourth PP councillor, Antonio García Solana, was retained on the mayor's governing team, meaning Sr Bolín slimly maintains his absolute-majority rule (10 GIB councillors plus the one PP councillor gives him 11 of 21 votes).
The lead PP councillor at Benalmádena Town Hall, Jesús Fortes, who is one of those dismissed by the mayor, was quoted as saying that the pact was "not broken, but totally empty." He said he and his party had been faithful to the spirit of the pact but were not willing to be strong-armed into accepting the GIB party line without input or dialogue. Sr García, the non-ousted PP councillor, had a different view, blaming the conflicts on Sr Fortes, whom he accused of entering into power struggles against the mayor. The opposition PSOE and IU parties at the Town Hall also chimed in, calling the GIB-PP governing pact broken. The PSOE party publicly offered to create a pact between itself and the IU and PP parties to effectively overthrow the mayor's GIB governing team. Such a move would be possible only if the combined parties could achieve 11 votes, which they would be a single vote shy of without the one PP member who has remained on the mayor's coalition team.
Brit saved from drowning
Mystery surfer saves swimmer off Carvajal beach
By Oliver McIntyre
A DUBLIN WRITER ON HOLIDAY IN FUENGIROLA WAS SAVED FROM DROWNING IN THE WATERS OFF THE BEACH AT CARVAJAL BY THE QUICK ACTION OF SOME BEACH-GOERS.
A young Spanish man on a surfboard was chiefly responsible for fishing him out of the water but disappeared without being identified.
“He thought he was going to die – he was wondering how I was going to carry the coffin back to Dublin,” said Sheila Sheridan, referring to her husband, 52-year-old Peter Sheridan, a well-known Irish writer and director. “And we’re talking about a strong swimmer here,” she told CDSN, noting that the incident serves as a strong reminder about the importance of exercising caution when swimming in even mildly rough seas.
The Sheridans were staying at their holiday residence in Carvajal, and it was on the small beach near their place where Mr Sheridan swam through the shoreline surf to reach the calmer water out a little further. There is no warning flag on the beach; there was one flying on a nearby larger beach, but it was not visible from the Carvajal site, Mrs Sheridan told CDSN.
STRONG UNDERTOW TO BLAME
Mr Sheridan quickly realised there was a strong undertow, or ‘resaca’ as it is known in Spanish, and found himself in trouble. Some women standing on the beach nearby saw him going under the water and waving his hands for help. They caught the attention of some young men with surfboards, one of whom quickly paddled out and pulled the flailing swimmer to shore. The surfer, who rode a white board, was a Spanish man in his late 20s with long hair. The Sheridans did not catch his name before he disappeared, but send out their heartfelt thanks for his fast action and lifesaving heroics.
Mr Sheridan has written and directed award-winning plays and movies, as well as an autobiographical work titled ‘44 – A Dublin Memoir’, which was translated into Spanish and many other languages, and currently has a new novel called ‘Big Fat Love’. After his recent scare on the beach, “I guess he’s got the material for his next short story,” said Mrs Sheridan with a relieved laugh.
Second major blaze in a week
Forty homes evacuated and three fire fighters injured
By David Eade
JUST DAYS AFTER A MAJOR BLAZE CAUSED HOMES TO BE EVACUATED IN ESTEPONA (CDSN AUGUST 12) ANOTHER SUMMER FIRE HAS HIT THE NEIGHBOURING MUNICIPALITY OF CASARES. Police moved quickly to evacuate 40 homes as a fierce wind drove the flames through 80 hectares of scrubland.
The blaze started at 13.40 beside the A-377 Manilva to Gaucín road within the boundaries of Casares in the area known as La Gamona. Property owners were led to safety in tears as the flames and smoke enveloped their properties. One resident lamented that in 66 years he had never seen a fire like this.
Over 280 people were involved in fighting the inferno including eight technicians and agents from the regional government’s summer fire prevention unit Infoca. Six fire fighting planes and numerous helicopters were used to bomb the blaze with thousands of litres of water. Fire crews from Estepona, Marbella and Ronda raced to the scene, as too did civil defence groups from Marbella, Torremolinos and Mijas.
TOLL MOTORWAY CUT OFF
The AP-7 toll motorway in the direction of Cádiz was cut as fire teams used the road to reach the fire as speedily as possible causing three kilometre tailbacks. Two kilometres tailbacks were also experienced in the direction of Málaga as traffic was forced to slow because of the intense smoke between km 148 and 151.
At the request of Infoca the electricity supply to the overhead high tension cables was turned off as a safety measure. Endesa-Sevillana stated that the cables took power from the Campo de Gibraltar central generating plant to Estepona and Nueva Andalucía which both suffered drops in power and occasional blackouts. Many areas of Casares had no electricity supply between 15.30 and 20.45.
The huge blaze was finally brought under control at 21.00 by which time three fire fighters had suffered light injuries. The Málaga province environment delegation is investigating the cause of the inferno and has recovered carbon remains from the A-377. One theory is that the fire was caused by the bad combustion of a vehicle engine.
By Oliver McIntyre
Many residents of Coín were stunned to find their cars ticketed last week while parked the same way they always are – partially on the sidewalk in some cases, in order to leave room for road traffic to pass by, or in other areas that may be technically illegal but are routinely used without attracting tickets. After a few days of the hyper-ticketing, it came to light that the action was in fact a kind of protest by local police officers fed up with longstanding salary disputes with the Town Hall, and pushed over the edge by comments reportedly made by the town’s Security councillor at a meeting between the Town Hall and the officers. In response to the ill-received comment that the police don’t work very much and don’t meet their responsibilities, the officers apparently decided to show just how well they can, in fact, carry out their duties.
In three days the officers issued some 500 tickets – compared to a usual average of 800 in an entire year. The most heavily ticketed areas were the central Urbano Pineda, General Rincón and Aurora streets.
The Town Hall, inundated with complaints by irate citizens, has promised the creation of a municipal commission to look into the situation. The mayor issued an apology to residents, and assured them that all fines issued during the ticket blitz will be carefully studied and reviewed.
Hundreds gather to watch Antequera storm
By Dave Jamieson
DESPITE THE CONTINUING HOT SUNNY WEATHER ACROSS ANDALUCÍA, ANTEQUERA LAST WEEK REPORTED A TORRENTIAL OVERNIGHT STORM.
However, not a drop of water fell to rehydrate the parched landscape, for this was a storm of stars – shooting stars, or meteorites – in the annual Perseid meteor shower. The streaks of light in the sky are caused by blazing pieces of dust drawn into the Earth's atmosphere from space. The meteor particles, sometimes the size of a grain of sand, come from comets which have passed through the inner solar system, and which have evaporated, leaving behind a trail of gas and dust. When the Earth passes through a comet's old trajectory, this debris burns up in our atmosphere to form shooting stars, which cross the sky at 60 kilometres per second.
THE PERSEID METEORS
The Perseid meteors owe their origin to Comet Swift-Tuttle, which last moved through the inner solar system 11 years ago, and get their name because they appear to be coming from the constellation Perseus. This year’s display peaked during the early hours of last Thursday when more than 300 people, including the professionals and the curious, gathered at El Torcal natural park. The visitors’ centre, which stands at an altitude of 1,200 metres and is presently undergoing a 1.4 million euro upgrade, is far enough away from the city lights for the meteorites to be seen clearly and they produced a spectacular display.
Many of the casual observers brought loungers and blankets, food and drink, to enjoy the free show, while members of the astronomical group Sirio took synchronised photographs from El Torcal and from Algarrobo Costa with the intention of later calculating the shooting stars’ intensity and speed. It was the fourth consecutive year that Sirio has organised the event to encourage viewing of the Perseids, which are also known as “The tears of Saint Lorenzo” since the peak of the shower occurs around the anniversary of his martyrdom in AD 258.
SEPE to move donkeys from Málaga to Nerja
By Oliver McIntyre
The SEPE equine-rescue organisation has announced that the donkeys currently held at its facility near the Málaga airport are to be moved to the group’s Nerja site. Many of the donkeys are sponsored by supporters who pay a minimum of 10 euros per year to help house, feed and care for their ‘adopted’ burros, and SEPE says these donors will be welcome to visit their sponsored donkeys at the Nerja site once the move has occurred.
“SEPE apologises for any inconvenience to our sponsors but we have to juggle some space to be able to take in further emergencies at Málaga airport and our rescued horses need more land,” said a spokesperson for the organisation.
The Málaga site will focus mainly on rescued horses, but will also temporarily hold newly rescued donkeys until they are fit enough to travel to Nerja. With the upcoming expansion of the Málaga Airport, the group will eventually have to move its Málaga facility to a new site, the location of which is to be decided in the next few months.
Meanwhile, the group is seeking volunteers and supporters at both its Málaga and Nerja sites to assist with grooming and care of the animals, as well as fundraising. “Due to two programmes on SEPE’s work on Spanish TV early this year, we have been fortunate enough to attract some Spanish volunteers travelling in from Málaga but we desperately need further assistance,” said the spokesperson, referring to the Málaga facility, which is a little harder to staff because of its location some distance from residential areas.
More information: www.sepeonline.net or telephone 626 67 77 19 (Victoria in Málaga) or 618 46 75 75 (Harriet in Nerja).