News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Rain and snow bring winter havoc
Last week's storms left one woman dead and millions of euros' worth of damage
By Dave Jamieson
Torrential rain across the area last week left one person dead and brought chaotic driving conditions to the roads. Snow and ice followed at the weekend disrupting public transport and causing scores of accidents.
A 76-year-old woman died in Valderrubio, north-west of Granada, last Thursday as flood waters began to invade the home she shared with her husband who is in his 80s. She is believed to have suffered a heart attack as the water rose to three metres and she died on the way to hospital. In the same town, around 20 children had to be rescued from a nursery after flooding left it isolated and without power or drinking water.
Homeless couple rescued
The same day, Málaga city centre was badly hit when up to 35 litres of rain per square metre fell between 9am and 10am, flooding basements, garages and homes. A homeless couple who had been sleeping beneath the Tetuán bridge over the Guadalmedina river became trapped after the water level began to rise rapidly when the heavy rains joined water from the Limonero reservoir after the sluice gates were opened. The pair clambered up onto the cement pillars under the bridge from where they were rescued 90 minutes later by fire crews using a vehicle with an articulated arm.
Opposition socialist councillors in Málaga blamed the situation in the city on the failure of the Town Hall to keep water drainage channels clear of rubbish. The same complaint was made by residents in the Aldeamar urbanisation of Torremolinos where flood water of up to 1.5 metres in depth affected around 30 homes. The heaviest rainfall in the province, 81 litres in under 24 hours, was recorded in Marbella.
In Alhaurín de la Torre, rainfall was recorded at 60 litres per square metre with reports of flood water a metre deep accumulating in just 15 minutes. One woman driver had a lucky escape when her 4x4 was under threat of being washed away by flood water. A tractor driver saw her plight and was able to hold her car steady with his vehicle, until the emergency services arrived to rescue her. Several residents had to leave their homes in the old town while the Algazara school was evacuated when the Bienquerido water channel reached dangerous levels.
Other towns in the valley of the Guadalhorce river and its tributaries were also badly hit by flooding. In Coín fire crews attended the collapse of an abandoned house while a number of rural roads became impassable.
In Ronda, the rivers Guadalevín y Guadalcobacín overflowed at their point of union, cutting off about ten homes in La Indiana, while 2,000 hectares of cereal crops were under water near Antequera.
Cats die at PAD animal shelter
In Mijas, the PAD animal shelter suffered severe flooding and firefighters brought in a powerful pump to help clear out the knee-deep water as workers scrambled to move the animals from the worst-hit areas. At least three of the centre's cats died and staff expect numerous animals will suffer illness from the cold and damp.
In Nerja strong on-shore winds, torrential rain and an exceptionally high tide combined to sweep away large amounts of sand at Burriana beach leaving fishing boats. high and dry, perched on a 1.5 metre ledge.
On Sunday afternoon in Antequera, around 100 passengers were rescued from about 30 vehicles which had become trapped by snow on the A7075 after a cold front moved across the region. Many families had come out to see the winter wonderland when they were surprised by fresh snow falls. In the Montes de Málaga park, three people who had cycled out into the snow became lost for over four hours until rescued by the emergency services.
Snow was lying above 900 metres on Saturday night as temperatures dropped to -3 degrees around Ronda, which was worst hit by the snowfall, while exposed areas of the Axarquía recorded one degree below zero. This turned to ice on many roads provoking dozens of minor accidents on Sunday including a 17 vehicle pile-up on the A92 between Granada and Antequera in which eight people were slightly injured.
Junta de Andalucía officials and the Insurance Industry Consortium have estimated that the severe storms experienced in Málaga province since December 20 have caused at least 26 million euros in damages, the bulk of which affect agricultural zones (around 20 million euros).
Residential construction skids to near halt
Planned house-starts drop by 75 per cent in one year
By Oliver McIntyre
The construction of new homes in Málaga province has ground to a near halt, with planned house-starts in 2009 dropping to levels not seen since the 1960s. According to the Official College of Architects, last year there were a total of 3,152 new house-starts approved in the province. That's down by 75 per cent from 2008, which posted 13,022, and shows marks a virtual standstill in comparison with the 54,653 new house-starts that were approved in 2003 in the heat of the construction and real estate boom.
"The market has disappeared," according to José Prado, the president of Málaga's Association of Builders and Developers (ACP). "New homes aren't being bought - the number of marriages has declined and people have no confidence in maintaining their jobs because unemployment has hit all sectors."
When examined on a town-by-town basis, the construction collapse is even more starkly evident. Traditionally thriving Torremolinos posted a grand total of 14 approved new house-starts in 2009 - down 97 per cent from the previous year. Other sizeable Costa towns such as Estepona, Marbella and Mijas all posted figures under 100.
The drastic falloff in construction hit all zones of the province. On the eastern Costa del Sol - Rincón de la Victoria, Vélez-Málaga, Torrox and Nerja - there were 288 approved house-starts in 2009, down 79 per cent from 2008 (2,382). Inland towns fared even worse, with figures plummeting 83 per cent, from 2,476 in 2008 to 417 in 2009.
Electricity bills become top consumer complaint
Telecommunications knocked from top spot for first time in the mobile-phone era
By Oliver McIntyre
THE number-one topic of complaints from consumers in Málaga province in 2009 was energy supply, due mostly to the chaos caused by changes in the billing process for electricity, according to the UCE consumer union. It is the first time since the widespread entry of mobile phones in the marketplace that telecommunications has not topped the complaint list.
The new electricity billing system, in which bills are issued monthly but metre readings continue to be performed just once every two months, meant many consumers received widely varying bills from month to month, as one was based on estimated consumption and the next reflected actual consumption.
The number of electricity-related queries or complaints nearly tripled in 2009, to 3,454, according to UCE. The sector thus outstripped telecommunications, which was the subject of 2,789 queries or complaints. Those related to mobile phones were actually down slightly from the previous year, while those related to fixed-line phones showed a small increase, due mostly to issues surrounding internet connections.
The retail sector registered third-highest on the list, with 2,098 queries or complaints. Other sectors high in the ranking were banking services, repairs and technical assistance, transport, housing, insurance, and health services.