Costa del Sol News - 19th February 2010

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

News Archive In association with

The Costa del Sol weekly newspaper, on sale at newsagents.

Rainstorms wreak havoc throughout the Costa

Helicopter and zodiac rescues as Río Guadalhorce bursts its banks

By David Eade

MORE than 20 people had to be rescued by zodiac boat or helicopter as torrential downpours early this week caused major flooding, road closures and evacuations throughout much of Málaga province.

The worst-hit zone was the Guadalhorce valley, where on Tuesday the Río Guadalhorce burst its banks in the upper area of Cártama.  Despite warnings from authorities that the river was rising and could flood, some residents failed to evacuate the area and became trapped in their homes.  Seven people were rescued by helicopter - six in the Cortijo Las Tres Leguas zone of Cártama, and one in the Santa Amalia area of Alhaurín de la Torre.  Rescuers in zodiac launches reached numerous other people in these and other affected zones.

The citrus plantations in the Cártama and Alhaurín de la Torre were submerged and Estación de Cártama was cut off due to flooded roads. The two municipalities put their emergency services on full alert and attended numerous calls including the rescue of horses from an equestrian centre. 

The heaviest rainfall was in Alhaurín de la Torre, which recorded 215mm in a 24-hour period, while the central stretch of the Río Guadalhorce received around 130mm. 

The river was further swollen when the Agencia Andaluza del Agua opened the gates of the three of reservoirs on the Guadalhorce, which were at full capacity, having taken in a huge amount of rain on Monday. The provincial environment delegate, Remedios Martel, said there was no alternative because of the need to ensure the safety of the reservoirs.  Indeed, the sluice gates were opened at all of the province's reservoirs with the exception of La Viñuela.

Also on Tuesday, Málaga city suffered major traffic jams after the heavy rain and winds felled a huge, 150-year-old ficus tree, causing the partial closure of the Alameda Principal during the morning rush hour. The city's outlying Campanillas district was hit with flooded roads and landslips that caused structural damage to at least three homes.

The Tuesday deluge followed major downpours on Monday, when the worst-hit area was the far west of the Costa del Sol - Marbella, Estepona, Manilva and in to the Campo de Gibraltar. The ferry services between Algeciras and Ceuta - Tangier were largely cancelled except for the larger, heavy ferries, while schools in Marbella and Manilva had to be evacuated after flood waters raced through the buildings surprising teachers and pupils alike. The Xarblanca and El Ángel schools in Marbella were the worst affected, along with the Maicandil in Manilva.

The entire Costa area stays on high alert as further heavy rainfall and storms are predicted for this week and well into next week.

Pilots warned of safety concerns in Spanish airspace

Looming air traffic controllers industrial action puts airlines on alert

By Dave Jamieson

The air traffic controllers trade union USCA has warned of delays and cancellations (Photo: EFE)

A WARNING has been issued to airline pilots over concerns about the safety of Spanish airspace. It comes as pay negotiations with the country's air traffic controllers remain unresolved.

Last Friday, the International Federation of Airline Pilots Associations published a notice on its website drawing attention to the current situation in Spain. It says that the negotiation of a new labour agreement between Spanish controllers and the airports operator AENA, "has taken an unexpected twist after the approval by the Spanish government of an Urgent Royal Decree which changes the previous agreement."

The dispute, the statement continues, "does raise some safety concerns. Consequences may include increased tension in the controller's work place, economic worries of (air traffic control) staff, unanticipated shortage of (controllers) and unexpected delays throughout Spanish airspace."

It then carries advice from the Spanish Syndicate of Airline Pilots (SEPLA) to exercise extreme caution when flying within Spanish airspace. Recommendations include increased vigilance of all air traffic control procedures, strict adherence to standard operating procedures, paying extra attention when entering congested airspace and exercising special attention during ground movements. SEPLA even advises pilots to consider carrying extra fuel, "for unexpected extended delays or diversions."

Ten days ago, the government announced that it would make major changes in the way air traffic controllers work which will save an estimated 300 million euros annually (CDSN last week). However, the controllers' trade union, USCA, has called for "total rejection" of the proposals and has warned of "delays and cancellations" if no deal is forthcoming by the time the current agreement expires on March 31.

Aznar accusations come to court

Ex-PM investigated for use of public money to lobby for US congressional medal

By Dave Jamieson

A PRELIMINARY investigation has opened into allegations that public money was used in an effort to have a former prime minister decorated with a special award. It is claimed that the cash was spent on lobbyists in a futile bid to have the US Congressional Gold Medal awarded to José María Aznar.

The charge has been made by the organisation Pre-eminencia del Derecho which says that in December 2003, the cabinet approved a 2.3 million-euro budget for the following two years to cover payments to the offices of a US lawyer, Piper Rudnick. The contract is believed to have included a first payment of $700,000 for the first seven months, followed by $100,000 monthly payments until it reached the sum of $2 million. The group claims that the arrangement was made without publicity and without any form of tendering for the work, but was justified at the time, "to assist the Spanish government in future relations with the United States." It further claims the decision did not appear in any of the cabinet's reports or in the official state bulletin.

The allegation, originally presented in December last year, continues that the money was to be used to lobby US congress members and senators into supporting Sr Aznar's bid for the medal. As such, it argues, it was a misuse of public funds. Last week, the Tribunal de Cuentas called for reports from the public prosecutor before deciding whether the case should proceed.