News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Axarquía grapes under threat from mildew
The blight, due to warm, wet spring weather, could affect 80 per cent of crop
By Dave Jamieson and John Peatey
THIS YEAR'S grape harvest in the Axarquía is being seriously threatened by mildew, according to the mayor of El Borge. Salvador Fernández Marín said the spread of the fungus had been encouraged by this spring's heavy rainfall and high temperatures.
El Borge is one of the largest grape-growing municipalities in the area and is the principal producer of raisins in the province. The mayor said the problem was serious and could affect up to 80 per cent of the harvest.
Representatives from the District Agricultural Office in Vélez-Málaga and from the Junta's Department of Agriculture and Fisheries have visited El Borge to evaluate and document the damage which has been caused by the mildew. In addition, the mayor is due to meet the provincial agriculture delegate, Mónica Bermúdez, to pave the way for applying to the EU for compensation.
Clara Verheij of Bodegas Bentomiz, north of Sayalonga, told CDSN this week that this summer is just the opposite of 2010: "Last year, we talked about a bumper harvest, but this year all I can talk about are devastated crops in the Axarquía."
Reprieve for Velez's beleaguered Tranvía
Deal with company will keep the tramway running, but layoffs still planned
By Dave Jamieson
A TENTATIVE agreement on the future of the Vélez-Málaga tramway appears to have been reached between the town hall and the concession operator, Travelsa. It was announced on Monday that Travelsa would withdraw the threat to close the service, provided that 362,000 euros of the debt owed to it is paid immediately.
Travelsa has been threatening to shut down the system because the town hall owes it more than two million euros in subsidies. Such a move would immediately throw its 23 staff out of work.
However, the tentative agreement does not mean that Travelsa will withdraw from the formal redundancy procedures which it has already opened. This prepares the way for a temporary dismissal of its employees for three months on the grounds of economic hardship. The tranvía staff this week held two days of strikes and a demonstration outside Vélez town hall in protest at their circumstances.
Monday's meeting also agreed that the town hall would commit to buying a third tram unit for the system and that Travelsa would receive further monthly payments. Additionally, a technical committee is to be established in September to consider the tranvía's future.
In return, the town hall has asked Travelsa to open the second phase of the tranvía tracks by the end of this year.
Crackdown on rogue beach vendors
Police patrols will also focus on dog owners who fail to clean up after their pets
By David Eade
GO TO the beach in Mijas this summer and you won't be sharing it only with fellow bathers. For years the sellers of cold drinks have wandered the sands but now they have been joined by others selling food such as rolls, fruit and even vegetables, say local officials.
On one hand it is understandable that in times of economic crisis people will try to make money where they can. However, the authorities are clamping down because the sellers are not regulated and the foods they sell are a potential danger to the public's health because they are not stored or sold in hygienic ways.
Hence Mijas town hall is taking action and the man leading the campaign is Ángel Nozal, the councillor in charge of the local police. He has ordered his officers to be on the lookout for these illegal vendors as they make their way along the beaches and target bathers.
Sr Nozal stressed this campaign was a top priority because of the public health issue. Also, the illicit beach traders do not have any licences to ply their trade.
The town hall does issues licences for street vending, but these traders are only allowed to operate at local street markets, festivals and crafts fairs, for which they have to apply for permission. In those cases, what they sell is controlled and if they are found to fall below the accepted hygiene standards they are fined.
Local charity offers free breast cancer screening for expats
By Oliver McIntyre
THE Mijas-based Positively Pink breast cancer charity has announced a summer campaign providing free breast screening exams for British women living on the Costa.
Positively Pink founder Lorraine Palmer urges all British woman over the age of 18 to take advantage of the free screening. "Early detection is your best protection," she said.
The group notes that while breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women, it is also one of the most treatable if detected early enough.
In the UK more than 45,000 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed each year, and it is estimated that one in nine women will suffer from breast cancer at some time in their life.
Positively Pink, dedicated to education and early detection of breast cancer, is providing the screening in collaboration with The Hospital Group, The British Surgical Clinic and Medilink Spain. The 60,000-euro budget for the scheme is being funded by Positively Pink and its sponsors.
The screenings are to be carried out on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the months of July, August, September and October. Appointments are available by calling Clinica Medicare in La Cala de Mijas (952 835 776).
Costa hit with first summer forest fire
150 campers evacuated as possible arson fire scorches 50 hectares in Sierra del Arca
THE Sierra del Arca in San Roque was the scene on Sunday of one of the region's first major summer fires. In total 49.6 hectares of scrubland was destroyed and the provincial delegate for the environment, Silvia López, has sent a report to the environmental prosecutor. Sra López stated that weather conditions and the location where the fire started, in green vegetation, suggests it was started intentionally.
Backing the provincial delegate in this view is the environmental association Verdemar, whose members helped in putting out the blaze. They say the fire was clearly intentional, with spokesperson Antonio Muñoz adding that every year there is a similar inferno.
Verdemar says the only reason the flames did not engulf a wider area was because of the excellent work of the specialist Infoca forest fire crews who prevented the blaze stretching to Borondo-Guadalquitón. However the environmentalists criticised the fact that clearing work had not previously been carried out in the zone to prevent fires, noting that the same area was hit by a fire in 2008.
Sunday's blaze was finally extinguished at around 7pm at the finca La Doctora, which is close to the A7 in San Roque. Fire crews stayed on station to dampen down hot spots and ensure the flames did not flare up again.
Summer tourism security plan launched
40,000 officers to patrol tourism zones around the country
By Oliver McIntyre
MORE than 40,000 National Police and Guardia Civil officers will ensure the safety and security of tourism areas throughout the country this summer, announced government officials last week.
The summer tourism security plan will see stepped-up patrolling of roads, airports, train and bus stations, ports, hotels, campgrounds and beaches, as well as at large events and in other zones that see big crowds.
Presenting the plan interior minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba and tourism minster Miguel Sebastián stressed the importance of security to Spain's tourism industry, a sector that represents 11 per cent of the of the country's GDP. Security is the second most important factor to tourists in deciding a holiday destination, behind only the physical attractiveness of the place itself, they said.
In recent years Spain has become "one of the safest countries in the European Union," with a crime rate "more than 20 points below the European average," said the ministers. The summer plan is aimed at further boosting tourists' sense of security during their visit.
In addition to the increased police presence, the plan includes informational campaigns in 10 languages, and efforts to expedite the process of attending crime victims and assisting foreigners whose documentation is lost or stolen.
The plan will be rolled out in Andalucía, Asturias, the Canary and Balearic islands, Cantabria, Valencia, Galicia, Madrid and Murcia, as well as in the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. Police presence will also be boosted in historic town centres designated world heritage sites, such as in Ávila, Cáceres, Cuenca, Mérida, Salamanca, Segovia, Santiago de Compostela and Toledo.
However, Málaga will continue without the so-called SATE service for rapid attention to foreign tourists that was originally announced last summer but never materialised. Currently the only SATE service is in Madrid, while officials say "conversations" remain ongoing with town halls in Málaga and several other major tourism cities. The summer security plan launches on July 1 and runs until August 31, except in the Balearic Islands, Ceuta and Melilla, where it is extended to September 30.
Summer heat-stroke prevention campaign
Special attention should be paid to babies, small children, the elderly and people with health conditions that could be aggravated by heat or dehydration
By Oliver McIntyre
THE GOVERNMENT last week issued a series of recommendations to help prevent health problems due to severe summer heat, especially among high-risk groups such as the elderly, children, people with chronic illnesses and outdoor workers.
The campaign launched by health minster Leire Pajín came on the heels of the national meteorological agency's forecast of a hotter than normal summer across the country. Last summer 15 people died from acute heat stroke in Spain, according to government figures.
The recommendations, which come as part of an annual summer heat health-risk prevention plan that was first launched in 2004, include drinking water and other liquids frequently, even when not thirsty. However, drinks with high caffeine or sugar content, as well as alcohol, should be consumed only moderately or not at all. Light meals including salads, fruit, vegetables and juice are recommended.
Physical exertion - including exercise - should be avoided during the hottest part of the day, from noon to 5pm, and as much time as possible should be spent in the shade or in air-conditioned spaces. Light-weight, light-coloured and loose-fitting clothing is recommended.
While anyone can suffer heat-related problems, special attention should be paid to babies, small children, the elderly and people with health conditions that could be aggravated by heat or dehydration, such as cardiac conditions, say officials. No-one should ever be left in a parked vehicle.
Modern allies celebrate their common Menorcan past
Representatives of Britain, Spain, the USA and Italy came together to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Royal Naval Hospital in Menorca
NEWS Staff Reporter
MENORCANS and visitors alike celebrated the 300th anniversary of the foundation of the Royal Naval hospital on the Isla del Rey in the port of Mahón on June 26th.
Dignitaries of the countries with historical links to the island - chiefly the UK, the USA and Italy and their Spanish hosts - took part in a series of ceremonies which mark the coloured history of what the British also called "Bloody island."
These events included the formal opening of the Priest's Garden (restored by British volunteer Mike Puttock) and the unveiling of a plaque commemorating the British presence in Menorca and those who died there.
Other formal acts included a wreath-laying ceremony at the Anglo-American cemetery, in conjunction with the US Navy League; the dedication of the recently re-built Anglican Chapel of St. George; and a reception on the island hosted by the British Ambassador.
A highlight was the unveiling of bronze bust of Admiral Sir John Jennings, who founded the hospital in 1711. Similarly, a wreath was laid at the bronze bust of Admiral Lord Collingwood, which was commissioned last year by the Menorca-Britannia Association, to mark the bicentenary of his death on board HMS Ville de Paris as he was leaving Port Mahón for the last time.
The UK was represented by the British Ambassador Giles Paxman, Defence Attaché Captain Frederick Price RN, British Consul in the Balearics Paul Abrey and Honorary Consul in Menorca Deborah Hellyer. The US Navy and US Navy League also hosted a formal reception on board the destroyer USS Bulkeley, which was presided over by the Commander US 6th Fleet, Vice Admiral Harry Harris.