Costa del Sol News - 11th March 2011

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

News Archive In association with

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

Spain weathers winter weekend storms

Hail, snow, lightening strikes and torrential rain brought chaos to the peninsula

By David Eade and Dave Jamieson

THE COSTA as well as other parts of Spain were hit with a series of late winter storms at the weekend.

Between 11am and 2pm on Sunday a massive storm swept into the Bay of Algeciras causing major damage and flooding in both the port town and Los Barrios.

In the three-hour period, 142 millimetres fell in Algeciras, hitting hardest in the Cuesta del Rayo quarter. Cars were covered as flood water rose to a metre and a half, the fire brigade was called out to rescue stranded residents and the town hall put its emergency plan into action.

During the storm period the 112 emergency service received 500 calls, principally from the central and northern zones of Algeciras. Houses, garages and business premises were all awash. A local policeman declared: "We have the sensation of total impotence."

In Los Barrios it was giant hail stones that caused the damage. Around a dozen homes in Palmones were completely inundated though nobody was injured.

The hailstorm raged from midday for around two hours. The Guadacorte river has been covered so as to prevent major flooding in such situations but still water 15 centimetres high raced through the streets. Los Barrios also invoked its emergency plan and fire crews on their day off were called in.

Sewers were overwhelmed, with water gushing back up toilets into homes, some as high as the second floor, carrying hail stones with it. In other properties floors were forced up by bursting pipes.

Criminal traffic offences drop by 18 per cent

By Oliver McIntyre

THE number of criminal traffic offences registered in Málaga province in 2010 was down by 18 per cent compared to the previous year, thanks almost exclusively to a legal change that let many drivers off the hook for driving without a proper licence.

In late 2009 a new law took effect making it no longer a criminal traffic offence to drive a car without a driving licence, as long as the driver does have a motorbike permit. This is now a normal traffic infraction, but not a criminal offence such as driving without any licence or with a suspended licence.

Last year there were a total of 3,559 criminal traffic offences recorded in the province, compared to 4,315 in 2009, according to year-end figures offered by the traffic prosecutor last week. The number of criminal cases for driving without a licence was down by 40 per cent, from 2,329 in 2009 to 1,379 last year.

Driving with an excessively high blood-alcohol level is the most common criminal traffic offence, with 1,942 cases last year, down from 1,957 cases in 2009 - a reduction of less than one per cent.

Residents set to sue town hall over nightlife noise

Puerto Marina homeowners have hired same lawyer who won Torre del Mar residents 2.8 million euros

By Oliver McIntyre

A GROUP of residents in Benalmádena's Puerto Marina are preparing to sue the town hall over excessive noise from the popular nightlife zone, and have hired the same lawyer that won a similar suit for residents in Torre del Mar several years ago.  In that case, Vélez-Málaga town hall was ordered to pay a total of 2.8 million euros to 18 residents in the El Copo zone who sued over the noise nuisance from local bars.

The 31 Puerto Marina residents last month filed a formal administrative claim at the town hall, the first requirement ahead of filing suit against a government entity.  The town hall has two months to respond, and if it fails to do so or rejects the claim, the residents can take the case to court.

The residents have long been battling for action over what they consider excessive noise from the bars and discos at the marina.  In the claim filed with the town hall, they demand that local officials take "immediate measures necessary to prevent disturbances from unacceptable noise levels." 

The claim includes supporting documentation including a list of complaints filed by the residents over the last several years, medical reports, documents from the Andalucía ombudsman, and the results of noise measurements taken in the zone.  It calls for the closure of all bars that fail to comply with noise regulations, a strict enforcement of closing hours, and stepped-up monitoring of noise in the nightlife hotspot.


Junta plans to regularise 11,000 Axarquía properties

By Dave Jamieson

THE Junta de Andalucía last week announced it intends to legalise almost 11,000 houses built illegally in the Axarquía zone on the east side of Málaga province.

The regional government's councillor for housing, Josefina Cruz Villalón, said last week that this represented 86.5 per cent of buildings in the area which are declared to be irregular.

The Junta has identified 12,670 buildings, mostly houses, which have been built on land that is not classified as suitable for urbanising. Of these, 859 are on protected land and 976 have other complications in their legal status.

Councillor Cruz said there may be ways to solve the problems with the remaining 10,800, thus opening the way to the legalisation of the properties. However, she confirmed that those on protected land "cannot be legalised and may have to be demolished." She met 22 of the Axarquía's 31 mayors on Friday to present them with individual inventories for their municipalities.

Save Our Homes Axarquía (SOHA), the group fighting for the rights of homeowners whose properties are under threat, said the announcement was the same process which has been described to them by the Junta on a number of occasions. SOHA's Gary Miles described it as "window dressing" ahead of May's municipal election, but nevertheless hoped legalisation would proceed quickly and smoothly.

Dead policeman suspected of being kidnapper

Investigators believe the officer could have been involved in other crimes

By David Eade

THE police officer who died last Friday in a shoot out in Torreblanca after the attempted kidnapping of a bank manager is under investigation by the National Police.

He is suspected of being involved in trying to snatch the bank official and may have been involved in other similar crimes in Marbella and Fuengirola.

The 55-year-old officer's partner, a Spanish woman from the Philippines, was also arrested for possessing illegal arms and resisting arrest. She was later released on bail but has to report to the police twice a month. The 53-year-old woman was in the Torreblanca property with the police officer when it was raided by GOES special operations officers.

The attempted kidnapping took place on Friday afternoon at around 15.30 when the bank manager left his office and went to his car. The police officer drew a gun on the manager and tried to force him into the vehicle but he broke free and fled.

Easter tourism threatened by airports strike

No timetable for strike action has yet been announced by the unions although they have confirmed it will cover 'all airports'

By Dave Jamieson

TOURISM is once again under threat after workers at Spain's state-run airports management business threatened strike action in Easter week, continuing into the summer.

Employees of Aena are angry that the government has not backed down on its plans partly to privatise the state-run sector.

Several thousand Aena personnel marched through the centre of Madrid on Saturday afternoon and gathered for a rally at the Puerta del Sol where they heard union leaders criticise the government's action. UGT representative Raúl Gómez told them that the privatisation plans had been drawn up without the agreement of the unions, and accused Public Works minister José Blanco of lying to workers, the public and parliament.

The unions believe that, rather than a 30 per cent privatisation as advised by the government a year ago, just under half of the operation of Spain's airports will come out of state control. In addition to Madrid and Barcelona airports, they claim that those at Palma de Mallorca, Málaga and others will be sold off.

Saturday's demonstration followed a noisy protest in Madrid's Terminal Four last Wednesday by Aena staff opposed to the plans. No timetable for strike action has yet been announced by the unions although they have confirmed it will cover "all airports." Saturday's announcement appears to include the important Easter period, as well as period of the municipal elections and the start of the summer season.

Med is warming and rising fast

A study shows a current annual rise between three and 3.5 centimetres a year with increases in temperature and salinity

By Dave Jamieson

THE level of the Mediterranean Sea is likely to rise 60 centimetres by the end of the 21st century.

The Spanish Oceanography Institute (IEO) said last week that it has risen between one and 1.5 centimetres annually since 1943, but the increase has accelerated sharply in recent years.

Presenting the results of a new study in Málaga last Thursday, the IEO's Manuel Vargas Yáñez said that the body of water has been altered by climate change, adding that the increase this century could be as much as 80 or 90 centimetres, "if global warming continues."

The Institute says the Mediterranean has risen by 20 centimetres since the 19th century and is now rising at between three and 3.5 centimetres a year with increases in temperature and salinity. 

Homeowners hit with big Euribor increase

The rate is up nearly half a point from February of last year, meaning mortgage payments will jump significantly

By Oliver McIntyre

THE EUROBOR interest rate index, the most commonly used in Spain to set the interest on variable-rate mortgage loans, closed February at 1.711 per cent, marking its biggest monthly jump since the current upward trend last March.

The February figure is 0.16 points higher than the January Euribor (1.55 per cent). Of more immediate importance to loan-holders whose interest rates are adjusted based on the February Euribor, the rate is up nearly half a point from February of last year, meaning mortgage payments will jump significantly.

For example, a 120,000-euro, 25-year loan with an interest rate set at the Euribor plus 0.8 per cent would see the monthly payment jump from 508 euros to 538 euros, meaning an additional 360 euros over the course of a year.

Analysts say the sharp February rise may be due to the markets anticipating an earlier than expected increase in the European Central Bank's benchmark interest rate, which is currently at one per cent. Earlier forecasts had predicted the ECB would not raise its rate until at least the end of 2011. But inflationary pressure due to soaring oil prices, fuelled in part by the current unrest in Libya and elsewhere in the Arab world, has raised speculation that the ECB could move up its rate hike to September.

The Euribor hit its historic high of 5.393 per cent in July 2008, when it levelled off before starting a downward plunge in October 2008 and dropping to it historic low of 1.215 in March 2010.