News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week February 23rd to March 1st 2006.
Authorities call for calm amid heightened public concern
By Oliver McIntyre
CONCERNS OVER THE POTENTIAL ARRIVAL OF BIRD FLU, HEIGHTENED IN RECENT DAYS WITH REPORTS OF DEAD BIRDS BEING TAKEN FOR LABORATORY TESTING, HAVE BEEN MET BY A CALL FOR CALM.
Dead birds have been found in La Rioja, Navarra, Madrid and other areas, but at press time it was unclear what the likelihood was that any of them would prove to be infected with the bird-flu virus. Because of heightened concern and public awareness, reports of dead birds may be receiving greater attention even when they are not highly probable bird flu cases. Authorities say that in recent months analyses have been carried out on more than 5,000 birds, all with negative results. They expect testing to increase in coming weeks due to a public that is ever more alert in reporting dead birds.
Public officials at the national level continue to maintain that all the necessary preparations are in place to handle the eventuality of the appearance of an actual case of bird flu. They have issued repeated assurances that there is no health risk in the consumption of poultry products.
MÁLAGA POULTRY FARMS INSPECTED
But despite all the calls for calm, regional and local officials appear to be taking more and more actions in the face of the bird-flu threat. The Junta de Andalucía has activated an alert in the province of Málaga and elsewhere in the region, launching inspections of 200 poultry farms in the province and keeping watch on wetlands and river deltas for the appearance of dead birds so they can be immediately tested. It has laid down guidelines for poultry farming operations, such as enclosing the birds to prevent contact with wild birds.
BENALMÁDENA TAKES ACTION
Meanwhile, in Benalmádena the Town Hall has decided to round up as many as 200 birds (chickens, ducks, geese, peacocks, etc.) at the Parque de la Paloma and hold them in coops at a private farm as a protective measure. Local officials say the decision was voluntary and is aimed at quelling the potential fears of residents concerned about bird flu.
Construction crane accident at Benalmádena school
By Olive McIntyre
LAST WEEK A CONSTRUCTION CRANE OPERATING AT A WORKSITE ADJACENT TO THE LA LEALA PRIMARY SCHOOL IN BENALMÁDENA KNOCKED OVER A PALLET OF BRICKS, SENDING SOME OF THEM CRASHING DOWN INTO THE PLAYGROUND. Although the school reported that some children were in the playground at the time, there were no injuries.
Immediately following the incident, Benalmádena Mayor Enrique Bolín ordered the worksite closed until the construction company ‘proves the safety of the site and adopts the necessary measures’ to protect the safety of the students and staff at the school. María Carmen Cardona, president of the La Leala parents association, told Costa del Sol News earlier this week that the construction company had agreed to install a special safety scaffold and net at the site, move the pallets of bricks three metres back from the edge of the roof, and operate the crane only outside the hours of 8.30 to 15.30 on weekdays. The Town Hall has given the company the go-ahead to restart work at the building site once these conditions have been met, said Sra Cardona.
This is not the first time the issue of the crane has come up. Last year the school and parents' association reported to the Town Hall that the crane was operating without a licence. It was shut down for a month until the proper licence was secured, at which point it was allowed to continue operating under the condition that it be idled during the times of day when the children are arriving and leaving.
OPERATING AT ALL TIMES
"Even when we were at play-time out in the playground it was operating," teacher Esperanza Jiménez told CDSN when asked about the situation before last week's accident. "We were always watching out for it as it swung around overhead."
The incident last week occurred even as the parents' association of another Benalmádena school, Jacaranda primary, continued its ongoing series of protests over two construction cranes located adjacent to their school. Fearful of just such an incident as that which occurred at La Leala, the parents want the cranes moved further away from the school. Town Hall sources say the cranes are properly licensed, but a parents' association spokesperson told CDSN that the group plans to continue its protests each Friday.
‘Highly dangerous’ Nerja suspects arrested
By Dave Jamieson
Five arrests have been made by police investigating an attack on a cashpoint (ATM) in Nerja, reported in last week’s Costa del Sol News. All the detained are believed to be connected to an Italian gang which specialised in the use of explosives to carry out their robberies.
National Police, whose specialist explosives unit Tedax was called to the scene of the Nerja raid on the town’s Burriana Beach, have arrested three suspects - two Italians aged 33 and 41 plus a 41 year old Israeli. The Ministry of the Interior said the detentions were the culmination of a six week operation into a number of similar operations across Spain for which the same gang is alleged to have been responsible. Two of the group were described as “very dangerous”, having previously been involved in a number of attacks, kidnappings and armed robberies, while one is understood to have been on the run from prison in Italy. Two Spanish citizens aged 22 and 28 were also arrested in the operation, code-named “Gas-Gas”, in which officers raided three properties believed to have been used by the group. A BMW car confiscated from them was found to contain equipment suitable for carrying out similar attacks.
The gang is thought to have carried out attacks in Tarragona and Barcelona in the last 15 months, as well as thefts from cash points in Málaga City and Benajarafe during January, the latter raid alone netting them 60,000 euros. Investigators eventually followed their tracks to properties in Málaga where a number of Italians had been known to be living since mid-December, but are continuing their enquiries to an effort to uncover links between the detainees and other similar crimes throughout Spain.
Dead Briton found in burning car
NEWS Staff Reporter
Firefighters extinguishing a car fire in Mijas last week discovered a dead body in the vehicle after the flames were put out. The body was identified as Leslie George Norris, 57, whom authorities at the British Consulate say also held dual British and Irish nationality.
The burning car, parked in front of the El Zoco commercial centre in Calahonda, was reported by the centre’s security guard at around 5.45 Wednesday morning. Firefighters arrived and put out the flames, which had engulfed the rear of the car. Once the blaze was out they found the body of the victim sitting in the driver’s seat of the right-hand-drive Rover 75.
Reports indicated that vomit was found inside the car and there was a smell of alcohol. Guardia Civil investigators have indicated that the fire started on the exterior of the rear part of the car with the assistance of some sort of flammable liquid.
Man arrested for killing and choping up his father
Head and torso found in rubbish bag in Torremolinos arroyo
By Oliver McIntyre
POLICE ARRESTED A 22-YEAR-OLD MAN IN TORREMOLINOS LAST WEEK FOR ALLEGEDLY MURDERING HIS FATHER AND THEN CHOPPING UP THE BODY.
The young man, Felipe Israel V.B., is reported to suffer from psychological problems and neighbours indicated that he had often had violent outbursts when not on medication.
The arrest came after the victim’s head and torso were found in a plastic bag among the reeds of Arroyo el Saltillo on the border of Torremolinos and Benalmádena, along Calle Nicaragua. Tattoos on the back of the torso aided authorities in identifying the victim, F.V.H., 50. The face was disfigured from being beaten, apparently with a hammer, which was later recovered in the home of the victim and his son, the alleged murderer.
The discovery of the head and torso came days after an arm and leg had been found under a motorway bridge in Torremolinos, and initial forensic testing has indicated that the body parts were from the same victim. At press time, investigators were still searching for the rest of the corpse.
Police arrested the son after searching the home where he had lived with his father, located in Calle Prokofiev in the El Pinillo area of Torremolinos. Neighbours in the area reported that the son had long had a conflictive relationship with his father and had been carried off in an ambulance on a number of occasions following violent incidents in which he destroyed property and acted threateningly. One neighbour said the disturbed young man had at one point cut his own ears in order to make himself look like a pitbull.
After his arrest, the young man gave a statement before a judge and was ordered to prison pending trial.
Junta rejects Eroski centre for Ronda
NEWS Staff Reporter
The Junta de Andalucía’s Department of Public Works has informed Ronda Town Hall that the project to create a large Eroski commercial centre at the town’s new fairground is “incompatible” with the classification of the land at the site. Public Works says the current local development plan (PGOU) does not allow for this type of commercial use on the property.
Further, the Junta says that work already being carried out to create the fairground itself is “a serious infraction” because it lacks the proper planning documentation and licences. Public Works has called on the Town Hall to halt work and to suspend its agreement with Eroski, which includes the creation of the new fairground.
Ronda Mayor Antonio Marín rejects Public Works’ charges, saying that the planning issues surrounding the project are within the jurisdiction of the Town Hall and that PGOU does allow commercial use on the land in question. He stated that the Town Hall has no intention of halting work on the creation of the new fairground, which local officials have said they intend to have completed in time for the town’s Feria de Pedro Romero in September.
Vélez tranvía may run to Rincón
By Dave Jamieson
A proposal to extend Vélez-Málaga’s new light transport system as far as Rincón de la Victoria has come a step closer. The Public Works department of the Junta de Andalucía and Vélez Town Hall have been studying the possibility of signing an accord on the project’s viability, with the intention of developing it this year.
At present, the new tranvía system, due to be inaugurated in a few weeks, runs south from Vélez to Torre del Mar. A small extension at the Vélez end has already been contracted, but a link as far as Rincón, with the possibility of a future interchange with Line 3 of Málaga’s new metro system, would be a major development. A promise from Public Works department at the Junta last week will now see the city’s future transport system extended as far as Torre de Benagalbón. According to Vélez mayor, Antonio Souvirón, tracks for the tranvía development could be laid on reserved ground which runs alongside the old N-340 coast road. He added that a bike lane could easily be included at little extra cost.
Meanwhile, a radical plan to reduce chronic traffic congestion in Torre del Mar is under consideration at Vélez Town Hall. A project to construct a tunnel below the present route of the N-340 through the town centre has been costed at almost three million euros. The tunnel would for run 230 metres between calles Princesa and Las Yucas.
False alarm prompts Nerja rescue operation
Paraglider’s sail whipped away by the wind
By Dave Jamieson
A MAJOR SEARCH AND RESCUE OPERATION WAS LAUNCHED OFF THE COAST OF NERJA AFTER NUMEROUS REPORTS THAT A PARAGLIDER AND ITS PILOT HAD FALLEN INTO THE SEA.
All the emergency services were involved in the incident last Thursday afternoon after phone calls began coming in that someone flying a paraglider over Burriana Beach had ditched into the water. One of the biggest searches along the coast between Nerja and Maro swung into operation but it was all in vain, for the flier was safe and well on dry land the whole time.
Witnesses said the paraglider’s sail was seen floating not far from the shore and the assumption was made that its owner, along with his harness, was under the water. However, the true story began on another Nerja beach, El Playazo, where a 40-year-old Nerja man was preparing to take off. The strong and gusty wind had whipped his paraglider sail from his harness and despite two searches in the nearby waters, he was unable to find it.
It now appears that the sail had fallen into the sea and that the weather conditions quickly moved it east towards Burriana. There it was spotted and the rescue procedure was triggered. Local police, fire crews, the Guardia Civil, Civil Protection, ambulances and even a helicopter joined the search which turned into a false alarm.
TARDY LOCAL EMERGENCY SERVICES
However, witnesses to the rescue operation mounted at Burriana Beach were critical of the state of readiness of the local emergency services, saying first that the Civil Protection could not find the ignition key for their jet ski which could have quickly been on the scene. Once the lock had been broken, it was found the battery was flat, and attempts to jump-start from a Guardia 4x4 vehicle resulted in severe damage to the jet ski and required assistance from fire crews to douse the flames.
Guardia officers then commandeered a small inflatable boat from the local diving school, but that was quickly overturned in the heavy seas. They allege that it was not until an hour later when the helicopter arrived that a close examination of the paraglider’s sail could be attempted, by which time, had the emergency been genuine, there would have been little hope of finding the pilot alive.
Students walk on ice to protest cold classrooms
By Oliver McIntyre
On a chilly morning last week, students at the Licinio de la Fuente secondary school in Coín walked along a path of ice cubes to enter the building. The ice walkway, a symbol of the cold the students suffer in their classrooms due to the lack of heating in the school, was staged as a protest by the student association. It says Education officials have promised for years that the heating system would be fixed, but winter after winter has gone by without any action, and the students are tired of the cold.
The students also complain of other inadequacies at the school, inaugurated in 1969, such as an obsolete electrical system that causes frequent power failures, leaks or moisture in the roof and walls and a lack of modern toilets in the bathrooms. But the lack of heat is a primary concern. “We have to attend class wearing gloves and knit caps,” Rafael Palomo Hevilla, the student association president, told Costa del Sol News.
The provincial delegation of the Junta de Andalucía’s Education Department explained last week that plans are already underway for restoration work at the school, with a budget of 408,000 euros. The school is to be converted into what the Education Department refers to as a TIC, or technology-focused school, with computers playing a large role in the classroom. School principal Manuel Olea confirmed that architectural plans are being drafted in expedited fashion to ensure that the improvement works can be completed by next school year.
Reports also emerged last week about insufficient heating in other inland schools, including the primary schools in Casarabonela, Istán, Ojén and Monda.
Marbella's bid to be cruise liner port
By David Eade
MARBELLA IS SEEKING TO BOOST ITS ECONOMY BY BECOMING A CRUISE LINER PORT.
The town hall is looking at a plan to combine its present leisure and fishing ports so as to create an enlarged zone that could accept luxury liners and become a regular port of call on their cruise schedules.
It is believed that the coastal authority has approved the project but it could yet hit the rocks due to the municipality’s on-going dispute with the regional government over its new local development plan (PGOU). The Andalucía authority is digging its heels in and is refusing to consider the port project until the new PGOU has been approved.
Marbella’s deputy mayor, Isabel García Marcos, has responded by accusing the regional authority of putting the cart before the horse and says it would be logical to deal with the port enlargement project ahead of the new PGOU.
PUERTO BANÚS DISPUTE
Another row is looming this time between the regional government and the company that has the concession to run the Puerto Banús port zone over its proposed enlargement. As reported at the time in the Costa del Sol News the company first proposed an extension in 1997. Then in 2001 a plan for 450 new berths was submitted to the Andalucía ports authority (EPPA).
Neither the port concessionaires nor the port authority can agree on how the project should proceed which led in January to the EPPA shelving the company’s application. The company says it will appeal as it is anxious for the enlargement to proceed and wants to be involved in the project. However the EPPA has its own ideas and is prepared to go it alone with a 120 million euros scheme to provide an extra 450 berths. This would bring the total number of berths up to 915, the majority being for the larger class of yachts between 50 and 120 metres in length.
Residents plan San Pedro protest
NEWS Staff Reporter
A citizen group called Platform for the Future has planned a protest for February 28 to demand action on long-delayed plans to turn the old San Pedro reforestation nursery into a nature park and recreation area.
The platform (‘Plataforma por el Futuro’), made up by residents’ groups, environmental organisations and political parties, charges that the old nursery site, located near the San Pedro industrial park, is in a state of “abandonment.” The Junta de Andalucía, which is in charge of the site, announced as far back as 1998 that the old nursery would be converted into a park and environmental complex, says the platform. But multiple problems, including a butting of heads between the Junta and the ONCE foundation, which was to create an environmental-education centre at the site, have left the project in limbo, despite the fact that in 2002 work was completed on the creation of barbecues and service areas.
The platform wants the barbecue area opened to the public and security provided at the site. It wants repairs made to the fence around the site, which has been damaged by works in the industrial park, and a clean-up of the rubble and old machinery parts that litter the facility. Finally, the group wants the Junta to provide an update on the progress of the project to create an environmental centre.
The February 28 protest will include a march from the Plaza de la Iglesia to the old nursery site, where the platform will put on a communal picnic.
Problems hit Jerez Ikea project
Swedish multinational caught up in ‘political war’
By David Eade
THERE WAS JUBILATION IN JEREZ A COUPLE OF MONTHS AGO WHEN THE SWEDISH MULTINATIONAL IKEA ANNOUNCED THAT IT WOULD BE OPENING A STORE THERE.
However, two months later the company’s management is reportedly surprised and unhappy at being caught up in “a political war”. The problem has apparently arisen because an alleged draft agreement between Ikea, Jerez Council and the Junta de Andalucía has been made public, under which Ikea was said to be investing 35 million euros in the project, which would create 300 jobs, whereas the company’s Director of Expansion and the mayor of Jerez, Pilar Sánchez, had announced that the investment would be 300 million euros and that more than 600 jobs would be created. Ikea insists that opening an ordinary store would need an investment of 50 million euros and would create 400 jobs, and that it will be spending 300 million on the shop and the business park, which will be specified in the definitive contract. The company is also said to be concerned that the agreement includes a change to the Urban Plan so the site can be reclassified, but the PSA is opposing this on the grounds that it could cost the local authority six million euros.
MAYOR DENOUNCES ‘STRATEGY’
The mayor of Jerez has also criticised what she calls an “irresponsible strategy” aimed at discrediting her, and she is accusing unnamed “frustrated politicians” of trying to create so much confusion that Ikea withdraws from the project.
Spanish tomatoes for ‘Eurovisión’?
By Dave Jamieson
It’s one of the most important annual decisions to be made in Spain, and last week it appeared to be coming a step closer. In the opening months of each year, the country holds its breath awaiting news of who is to represent it in an international event of unique proportions – the Eurovision Song Contest.
The favourites at present are Las Ketchup, a group of three sisters from Córdoba. Lola, Pilar, and Lucía Muñoz enjoyed a worldwide hit in 2002 with a song called “Aserejé” – known in English as “The Ketchup Song” - which sold over seven million copies. They were named last week by the Spanish website vertele.com as the nation’s Euro-representatives, singing a song called “Bloody Mary”, written by Manuel Ruiz who also discovered the girls and wrote their first hit. The alleged Euro-song will also be the title track of their second album, due for release this summer, and will mark a comeback for Las Ketchup after they took a break while Pilar had a baby.
Vertele.com has a good track record for accuracy, being first to report that Spain’s 2006 Eurovision entry would be chosen internally by RTVE and not by a nationwide vote. Javier Montemayor, head of entertainment at RTVE, later explained that the broadcaster had decided not to hold a national final because the majority of recent Eurovision winners had been performers with an established professional career behind them. The TV channel received 256 songs from Euro-hopefuls in recent months and has promised to confirm both the identity of the performers and the title of the song in coming weeks. However, it is already running trailers for the Eurovision Song Contest with the slogan “Haber Tomate”, being seen as a clue to Las Ketchup whose first album was entitled “Hijas del Tomate” (Daughters of the Tomato). This itself was a reference to their father, flamenco guitarist Juan Muñoz whose nickname is El Tomate.
Spain first entered the annual Eurovision competition in 1961 with “Estando contigo” sung by Conchita Bautista and has won it twice: in 1968 with Massiel singing “La la la” and, as part of a four-way tie alongside the UK, France and the Netherlands, in 1969 with Salomé and “Viva cantando”. This year’s contest will be held in Athens on May 20.
Tráfico launches campaign
News Staff Reporter
A campaign was launched on Monday against the use of personal music players and mobile telephones by vehicle drivers. The Guardia Civil has begun a series of 100,000 random checks across the country in the period to March 5 to emphasise that the use of such devices, which do not leave both hands free for driving, is now illegal following recent legislation.
Tráfico believes that while the use of a telephone while driving is well known as a punishable offence, the awareness of the illegal use of headphones to listen to music is possibly not as widespread. Driving while wearing earphones connected to a music player or while using a mobile phone are both considered to be serious offences which can attract a fine of up to 300 euros plus a driving ban of up to three months. On the new penalty points system being introduced, a conviction would result in three points being taken off the licence.
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