Costa del Sol News - 9th August 2007

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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Week 9th August - 15th August 2007

Police seize faulty kids' vests from store shelves

By Oliver McIntyre

COÍN’S LOCAL POLICE DEPARTMENT last week seized 20 dangerous children’s lifejackets from two local ‘everything for a euro’ shops, raising concerns that more of the defective flotation devices could still be on store shelves in other Costa towns.

The potentially deadly vests, sold under the falsified brand name Dragon Ball, do not provide sufficient buoyancy to keep a child afloat. Police tests have showed that the lifejackets sink under the weight of just 2.5 kilos despite being sold for children aged three and over.
The Coín police acted after an advisory from the Health and Consumers Office in Málaga warning local police departments in the region of the potential presence of the faulty lifejackets.
The vests were first detected in Málaga city at the end of June when a man bought one for his granddaughter and then had to jump into the pool to save her when she promptly sank after entering the water wearing the lifejacket. The man filed a police complaint and later the same day the police seized 500 of the vests from retail stores and a wholesale supplier in the city.

Stores not fined
The Coín police carried out simultaneous inspections at six local shops. The vests were found at two of the stores, but neither will face fines or charges because they unwittingly received the faulty merchandise from their supplier, Officer Francisco Guzmán told Costa del Sol News. Authorities say anyone who may have purchased one of the vests, whether in Coín or elsewhere, should report it to their local police department.

Residents asked to help search for fleeing rapist

Attacker of teenage girl went fugitive on the day of his conviction

By David Eade

THE MOTHER OF A TEENAGE RAPE VICTIM and Kent police are asking residents and tourists on the Costa del Sol to help track down a fleeing rapist. Andrew Alderman, 48, from Maidstone in Kent, was out on bail while being tried for the offence but skipped the country on August 31 of last year, the day he was found guilty. He was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison for rape, indecent assault and sexual activity with a child.

Alderman was last seen on CCTV cameras at the Channel Tunnel as he made his way to Europe. Police believe he is probably in southern Spain, although Ibiza, Majorca or the Canary Islands are also possibilities. He is said to speak several languages including Spanish.Living nightmareThe mother of the victim stated: "It's a living nightmare. It's constant, every single day it's there. It's not finished, he's been convicted but he's not been punished." She pleaded: "Holidaymakers could quite easily bump into him . if somebody sees him just phone the police."Kent Police's Detective Inspector David Berry appealed for people in Spain to look out for a specific car. "We are particularly interested in a Volkswagen Passat we know Andrew Alderman owned and left the country with in August last year. The registration is GL53 VBU. From the information that we have we do believe he is somewhere in the south of Spain."

Immigrants and tourists face highway robbery

By Oliver McIntyre

AUTHORITIES HAVE REPORTED a spike in cases of robberies at motorway service stations, such as the one at Arroyo de la Miel, as thieves target weary tourists and immigrants who have spent hours at the wheel on their way to the Costa or to the ferries that will take them on to northern Africa. The immigrants, mostly from Morocco and Algeria, are on their way home for summer holidays from their jobs in Europe, in a massive annual migration known as Operación Paso del Estrecho, or Operation Cross the Straits.

When such travellers stop off at motorway service stations and rest stops, thieves take advantage of any moment of distraction to quickly swipe a suitcase or handbag from an unlocked or untended vehicle. Police have record of six such robberies in one week at a single service station. One immigrant lost 4,000 euros he had stored in one of his bags. In early July police arrested two men and a woman accused of this type of service-station robbery, and another three people were picked up later in the month. Police recommend that drivers never leave valuables in view inside the car, be sure to lock the doors, and never trust anyone other than service station personnel.

Britons walk free from jail

By David Eade

THREE BRITONS who were arrested on a yacht carrying 216 kilos of cocaine worth eight million pounds and who spent two months in custody in Gibraltar's Moorish Castle jail have been freed by the court after all charges against them were dropped. The three, who have always insisted they are professional yachtsmen, were arrested last June 5. Customs officers intercepted their 50-ft yacht 'Gin' and found the drugs sealed in the fibreglass hull. They had crewed the yacht from the Caribbean to Gibraltar and its movements had been monitored by international drug busting agencies.

After an eight week investigation the court was told there was no evidence to link them to the haul or prove they had knowledge the drugs were on board.

However, the yacht's skipper continues to face charges in connection with the case.

Fifty-one-year old Trevor Collenette, a retired Lloyd's TSB banker who was first mate on the yacht, told the media after jubilantly leaving court: "I am very happy and relieved that the nightmare has ended and that Kate, Martin and I are free after eight weeks of custody." Another of the freed Britons, Kate Burman stated: "For us this was a typical yacht delivery, one of thousands which happen yearly. We had nothing to do with the drugs and we did not know they were hidden in the yacht."

Skipper still faces charges
The yacht’s skipper Jonathan Kelway, 57, still faces charges of importation and possession with intent to supply the cocaine. He has been granted bail but remains in custody while arrangements were made to secure a £75,000 surety required by the court and when he is freed, must not leave Gibraltar. His lawyer insists that there is no evidence against him.

Airport taxis take action on pirate drivers

NEWS Staff Reporter

MÁLAGA TAXI DRIVERS have taken the problem of "pirate" operators at the airport into their own hands. For years, the drivers have complained that unlicensed taxis have been stealing their business and losing them substantial amounts of money. In addition, they say, many of the drivers will not have adequate insurance to cover their paying passengers in the event of an accident. The president of the United Málaga Association of Self-Employed Taxi Drivers (Aumat) says the problem has been getting steadily worse. Ángel de Mula explained that some of the pirate operators advertise their services on the internet and the presence of police to monitor the situation has been insufficient.

Now, Aumat has hired the services of four security guards, a former policeman and three ex-Guardia Civil officers, to tighten their controls on the problem. They have already reported an average of between ten and fifteen pirates a day following their observations and say that they are easy to spot. The most common profile, they say, is that of a retired foreigner dressed in Bermuda shorts and sandals, often carrying something distinctive so they can be recognised by the incoming client, such as a cap, a football shirt and, above all, a card bearing the client's name. One pirate, when challenged, said he was waiting for his mother to arrive, and when asked why he had a card with her name on it, he said it was a long time since he had last seen her.The Junta de Andalucía can impose a fine of more than 1,500 euros on anyone found operating an unlicensed taxi, while pirates could also find themselves under investigation by the taxman for failing to declare their illegal earnings. Málaga taxi drivers have the right to collect fares at the airport during one week in every eight, and actively oppose taxis from other municipalities which try to pick up an arriving passenger after dropping off someone flying out. Taxi drivers say that unless there is a greater police presence to support them as the airport expands, things could develop into "total chaos."

Club de Hielo confirmed as Legionnaires' source

NEWS Staff Reporter

LABORATORY TESTING has now confirmed that the Club de Hielo municipal ice rink and pool in Arroyo de la Miel was the source of the Legionnaires' disease outbreak in Benalmádena, as authorities had assumed after the Legionella bacteria was detected in the facility's cooling towers. Samples taken from the 15 people who were hospitalised matched samples taken from the cooling towers, officials announced last week.

"It is now up to the courts to determine whether or not there is any criminal liability on the part of the Club de Hielo," said María Antigua Escalera, the Junta de Andalucía Health Department's delegate in Málaga. It has also been revealed that the outbreak, which was detected on June 29, affected three tourists, two of them foreigners, who were not diagnosed with Legionnaires' until after returning home. That brings the total number of people hospitalised to 18, one of whom, a 68-year-old British man, died at Málaga's Hospital Clínico on July 9. At the time of going to press, four people remained in hospital, two of them still in a serious condition.

Valle de Abdalajís relies on trucked-in water

NEWS Staff Reporter

THE TOWNSPEOPLE OF VALLE DE ABDALAJÍS are once again dependant on tankers to haul in potable water after an emergency well brought online just last October has run nearly dry. In July 2005 the local aquifer was damaged during work on the AVE high-speed train tunnel and for more than a year the town had to have some 400,000 litres of potable water trucked in each day. In October of last year a new well, dug by the public railroad-infrastructure company ADIF, began operating with a flow rate of 15 to 20 litres per second. According to the environmental group Plataforma Pro Manantiales, in the last month or so the well's level has dropped 30 metres and its current flow rate is jut six litres per minute.

The town's mayor, Alfonso García Carrasco, confirms that the well is no longer sufficient and that potable water is once again being trucked in. The well was deepened once before, to 245 metres, but cannot be drilled further, he says. ADIF officials have told the mayor that the patching of the town's damaged aquifer - a complicated 40 million-euro repair that has been in process for two years - will be completed in around a month. However, once the work is finished it is expected to take at least three years for the aquifer to fully recharge.

When a scam is not a scam

Sorting the bogus gas men from the real ones

By Suzan Davenport

ESTEPONA RESIDENT DEREK DUGGAN was busy cooking his kids' lunch last Thursday when the doorbell rang. He opened the door to two Spanish men. Mr Duggan caught the words gas and bombona and thrust an empty gas bottle at them - he'd rung to order a replacement one earlier that morning. But the men didn't want the bottle, they wanted to check his gas installation and relieve him of 160 euros.

Mr Duggan said: "The alarm bells starting ringing when one of the men said he wanted to be paid in cash. I don't speak much Spanish, but enough to understand that. It also seemed expensive." By the time Mr Duggan had put the bombona down, the inspectors were already changing the tubing and connection value. "It seemed a bit dodgy and I wasn't sure what to do, so I rang the Costa del Sol News as I'd read stories in the paper about similar scam situations. The newspaper suggested I call the police and asked them to speak to the gas inspectors, so I did."

Two local police officers arrived shortly afterwards to double check the gas men's papers. As it turned out, in this case the gas inspectors were who they said. "Even the police officers agree it's very hard to know who is real and who isn't," said Mr Duggan. "But ringing them helped enormously and they were happy to come over. The officers also explained that once you let bogus gas men into your home, it's your own fault if you get scammed. Never let them in if you are unsure. Even if they are official you can still tell them to go away and make an appointment to return another day. Also get them to leave a copy of their identity - which you can then check with the gas company or the police.""I now know that you receive an official Repsol orange folder with your certificate in, which is valid for five years. Once you have a certificate then you should be left alone. Also, if you don't have a certificate then you could have insurance problems."The gas inspectors, aware of the problem, were happy to talk to the police and understood that customers are wary due to the numerous scams reported. Mr Duggan said the police told him to "always call the cops if you're in doubt."

Teleférico offers viewing of meteor shower

By Oliver McIntyre

WITH THE PERSEIDS METEOR SHOWER currently at its peak, the Teleférica cable-car ride in Benalmádena is offering stargazers a chance to view the phenomenon from atop the 800-metre peak of Mount Calamorro. The Perseids, also known as the Tears of St Lawrence, is a prolific meteor shower associated with the Swift-Tuttle comet. It is named after the constellation Perseus, which is the point from which the meteors appear to be coming, though they are visible all across the sky. The Perseids shower is visible each year from mid-July to late August, and during its peak between August 8 and 14 there can be a hundred or more meteors per hour.

During the hot nights of August, the meteors are the main attraction at the summer astronomy programme at the top of the Teleférico ride, offered each Monday, Wednesday and Friday night from 22.00 to 23.30. The programme, launched last year, is run by experts from the Aula del Cielo astronomy education centre in Málaga and the Málaga Astronomy Society, who teach visitors about the stars and constellations using high-powered telescopes. The cost of the astronomy programme is covered by an extra two-euro surcharge added to Teleférico prices on Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights beginning at 20.00. The cable cars leave from the Tívoli World esplanade and take about 15 minutes to reach the summit.

'Stolen water' demo by Axarquía farmers

By Dave Jamieson

THE SERIOUS EFFECTS OF THE DROUGHT on the economy of Canillas de Aceituno have been highlighted by a demonstration outside the Town Hall in Vélez-Málaga. Local growers say that crops of avocados, oranges and lemons have been lost because of the lack of water available for irrigation. Despite the village's position ironically close to the Lake Viñuela reservoir, farmers in the area of the Bermuza river say they are now seriously hampered by an agreement with the water provider which dates from 1987. The accord then assured adequate supplies from the river for both irrigation and domestic use, but local people say that ten times more is now required because of the ever-growing number of new houses in the countryside. A representative of the Green Party, José Luis Gámez, claimed that a series of urbanisation developers "are stealing the water . to fill swimming pools."At last Friday's protest, the president of the community, Antonio Ortiz, said that while he and his colleagues have to pay 100 euros for a container of 10,000 litres of water to augment the piped supply, the mayor of Vélez is opening new wells to supply the spreading domestic demand. The protesters, who have denounced the matter to the Guardia Civil and the Department of the Environment, say that last week's demonstration will be repeated every Saturday at 19.00 and has the support of ecologists in the area of Canillas de Aceituno.

Málaga fair begins in controversy tomorrow night

'Excessive' decorative lighting criticised as waste of energy

By Dave Jamieson

MÁLAGA'S ANNUAL FAIR begins tomorrow night with 8,000 kilos of fireworks. The city's skies will be alight at midnight as the 10-day event gets underway and for the first time, the spectacle will be launched from two different sites. The 20 minute display will be accompanied by music and will see 21,422 individual fireworks go up in smoke.

The feria commemorates the events of August 19, 1487, when Málaga was re-conquered from the Moors and the Catholic monarchs Isabel and Fernando entered in triumph. Nowadays, under its correct name of the Gran Fiesta de Verano, Málaga fair is in reality a number of different events running concurrently, of which the bullfighting and horse festivals are probably most important.

This year's fair has already proved controversial with negative comments from the Junta de Andalucía about "excessive" decorations. The town council says that 1.2 million coloured lamps will be used to illuminate the city, more than ever before, prompting the Junta to criticise the council for showing "a total insensitivity and ignoring attempts at world level being organised to prevent climate change." The councillor for sustainability and services, Teresa Porras, responded by saying the increase in the number of bulbs used this year did not bring with it an increase in power consumption because of the use of energy-saving lamps. Municipal sources anticipate an energy saving of between 20 and 30 per cent compared with last year's fair, equivalent to 33 tons less of carbon dioxide. Take the busAlthough extra parking will be available for the duration of the fair, the town hall is urging those planning to attend the opening ceremony to use public transport. Additional bus services will be operating between 23.00 and 03.00 tomorrow night, while special routes will operate from 21.00 to 19.00 from Saturday to take revellers to and from the nighttime fairground.As the fair formally opens in the city centre, thousands more will be at La Malagueta beach for a huge open air concert organised by MTV. "Malaga Summer 2007" is headlined by British singer Jamelia and local group Efecto Mariposa, although a late change means that popular Puerto Rican star Chayanne has pulled out for personal reasons. Some 150,000 people are expected to attend the concert which will be recorded by MTV for worldwide transmission.

Food costs expected to soar in September

World grain markets causing increased prices on staples like bread, milk and eggs

By Oliver McIntyre

THE COST OF BASIC FOOD ITEMS like bread and cereals, eggs, milk and some meats is expected to see a sharp rise in September, according to Spanish government and industry officials. The expected price hikes are due largely to the impact the rising bio-fuel industry is having on the world grain market (grain crops are used to produce bio-ethanol and others), added to poor grain crops in Europe and a rising demand for basic food items like milk in China and elsewhere in Asia.

With grain prices up, the effect on bread and other cereal-based products is obvious, but there is also a knock-on effect, as grains - either whole or processed into food pellets - that make up the bulk of the diet fed to egg-laying chickens, milk-giving cows and some animals raised for meat.

Over the last year there have already been some notable price increases at consumer level - such as bread prices up 6.1 per cent - but much of the rising cost of source materials has been absorbed by the wholesalers, and it is only a matter of time before it is passed on to consumers, say experts.

Over the last year the price paid to producers for a dozen eggs has skyrocketed 25.8 per cent, from 0.58 euros to 0.73 euros. The producer price for milk has jumped seven per cent, to 0.32 euros a litre, and industry groups expect the rise to continue, perhaps to 0.36 euros by the end of August and 0.40 euros by year end. Some of the major consumer milk brands have already begun raising retail prices by around five per cent and further increases are expected in September. Cooking oil prices are also affected as the source of some oils, such as sunflower oil, is also the source of raw material for the production of bio-fuels. In the last year the bulk price of unrefined sunflower oil jumped 22.4 per cent, to 0.65 euros per kilo. Meats from animals raised on grain and cereal feed, such as poultry and beef. Retail prices of chicken have increased by 8.2 per cent over the last year.

Report urges Brits to prepare better for holidays

By Dave Jamieson

SPAIN HAS TOPPED THE LIST of countries where British nationals on holiday seek help from UK consular staff. The government in London says many of the problems could have been avoided if travellers had been better prepared.

The figures come from a report, British Behaviour Abroad, published last Thursday by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) which studies data from the period April 2005 to March 2006, the most recent for which accurate figures are available. It quotes the Office of National Statistics figure of 13.8 million British visitors to Spain in that year during which 6,078 lost their passports, 1,549 were arrested and 601 ended up in hospital. Forty-one reported that they had been raped while on holiday and 1,325 died in this country. Spain remains the country most-visited by British nationals.

The number of lost passports is particularly high when compared to the second worst behaved nation abroad, the French, who managed to lose only 713 passports out of the 11 million who came to Spain. The FCO recommends making two photocopies of passports before travelling, then leaving one at home with family or friends. It says that if you need to carry identification when abroad, carry the photocopy and leave the original in a secure place such as an hotel safe.

The number of Britons arrested in Spain was only just ahead of the numbers detained in the USA despite the fact that the number of travellers going across the Atlantic was less than half of those coming here. Greece beat Spain into top place with the number of hospitalisations, 955, prompting the FCO to remind holiday makers to purchase travel insurance and check what is excluded before leaving home.Brits behaving badlyOther facts from the data show that the Czech Republic has a disproportionate number of lost passports, arrests and hospitalisations by British citizens which the FCO attributes to the high number of hen and stag parties which choose to celebrate there. It also says that high figures from India may be as the result of many British Asians visiting family members and foregoing the usual preparations such as required vaccinations.Between replying to general advice queries and helping in emergencies, British consular staff in Spain helped 10,734 people in the period studied. The FCO hopes the figures will encourage travellers to take simple precautions to help avoid common traumas, risks and dangers in the long run.

Battle of Trafalgar starts with Energy Bill

Ecologists clash with residents and politicians over wind parks

By David Eade

ON THURSDAY the Royal Decree that will regulate marine- and land- based wind generation parks in Spain came in to effect. The ministries of industry, the environment and agriculture and fisheries are now engaged in drawing up a map of where these parks can be located. Companies are expected to bid for projects from January 1 but have to demonstrate what effects their scheme would have on the flora, fauna and fish stocks.

One of the key battle grounds will be off Cape Trafalgar on the Costa de la Luz. This project was first mooted back in 1997 when a group of businesses and experts planned a marine wind park, Mar de Trafalgar, off the beaches of Barbate, Vejer and Conil. It would have covered 18 kilometres of coastline, had 270 wind generators and an output of 1,000 megawatts. It was also proposed that a major fish farm be located on the site. But this was opposed by political and residents' groups and the ecologists who were all against the fish farm. Now only the wind park part of the project remains and this has been welcomed by the Green Party - Los Verdes. However it is opposed by all other groups who argue that it will damage the fish stocks (an important factor for the community in Barbate), have an adverse visual impact and damage local tourism.Chaves gives deciding vote to local populationThe president of the regional government, Manuel Chaves, has stated that no wind park on land or sea will be allowed to be established unless it has the full support of the local population. This now sets Los Verdes and the environmental lobby at odds with the local communities as they support both sea borne generators above and below the waves.Vejer resident Malcolm Davis commented: "The problem with wind farms is that they give the Greens a proverbial headache. On the one hand they are clean and therefore must be supported, but only as an alternative to dirtier methods of producing electricity. On the other hand they despoil the otherwise pristine Tourist Board of Spain. I have always held a 50/50 view."