News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Double gun salute as Royals visit Gibraltar
The Earl and Countess of Wessex received a warm welcome from the Rock's residents
By David Eade and Suzan Davenport
THE customary gun salute, fired when members of the British Royal Family visit Gibraltar went off twice on Monday.
The first 21-gun salute, in honour of the Duke of Edinburgh's birthday, occurred while the Earl and Countess of Wessex were still in the air en route to the Rock on their British Airways flight from London.
In a series of firsts, it was the first time a Royal Gun Salute was fired from the newly restored Grand Battery on the city walls above Casemates and also the first time the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, had inspected the Thomson's Battery of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment.
Around an hour later the guns rang out again as the Royal flight touched down but on this occasion both the Governor of Gibraltar and the Chief Minister were on the tarmac to welcome Prince Edward and his wife Sophie as they descended the steps from the aircraft.
The visit to Gibraltar was part of the world wide tour being undertaken by members of the Royal Family to celebrate Her Majesty the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.
After their arrival Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones went on a short 'walkabout' in John Mackintosh Square before watching excerpts from the Gibraltar Academy of Dance's production of An Audience With The Queen. Their Royal Highnesses then walked along Main Street to the Convent.
During their stay the Royal visitors laid the foundation stone for the Diamond Jubilee Monument on Line Wall Road overlooking the site of the new Jubilee Commonwealth Park.
On Tuesday they visited Headquarters British Forces, performed the unveiling of a plaque at the Moroccan Fountain in Alameda Gardens to honour Moroccan workers in Gibraltar and visited the Gibraltar Museum.
Málaga ups security as violence escalates
Knife injuries in the city have risen by 62% compared with the same period last year
By Dave Jamieson
Police in Málaga have stepped up searches for firearms and other weapons following a disturbing increase in violent crime in the city. The security coordinator at the town hall, Juan Fernando Gómez, said last Friday there were 12 or 14 "hot spots" where controls had been increased.
The move came three days after a man was stabbed to death outside an infant school in the city's calle Corregidor Antonio de Bobadilla (CDSN last week). Both he and his alleged attacker had just dropped children off at the start of the school day and the incident was witnessed by some of them and by other parents.
The dead man was named as Zongon Naaze, a 33-year-old Ghanian immigrant, while a 34-year-old man from the Ivory Coast was detained shortly afterwards at his home. He is known locally as Conan. The victim's partner said the men had started arguing and a fight developed, during which she received a blow to the stomach and was thrown to the ground. The attacker pulled a knife from a red backpack and Zongon was stabbed three times, with one of two blows to the chest resulting in his death at the scene. Witnesses say Conan then walked calmly away, ignoring shouts from people nearby who later told police were he lived.
The detained man appeared in court last Thursday evening and told the judge he kept the 20 centimetre machete in the backpack "to scare people."
Cash-strapped Coín raises rates by up to 30 per cent
Town hall says that even after increases the charges won't cover cost of services
By Oliver McIntyre
FINANCIALLY struggling Coín town hall has approved a slew of rate hikes including a 30 per cent increase on water rates.
"The difficult situation of the town hall - with a debt of more than 27 million euros and in the midst of an austerity plan - requires great effort," said the town hall, which approved the measure with the votes of the ruling Partido Popular.
The 30 per cent water rate hike will be applied in the existing rate brackets, "so large consumers will pay the most," said the town hall. Mayor Fernando Fernández explained that the water service is currently "very deficient," with the deteriorated supply network losing around a third of the water due to leaks, and a two million-euro investment is required to bring it up to standard.
THuge court win for wronged off-plan home buyersBy Dave Jones
BRITISH buyers - who were left in the lurch after their builder failed to construct the homes they paid for more than five years ago - have won a landmark victory in the courts.
The judge in the First Instance Court in Hellín, Albacete, found in favour of 47 members of the Finca Parcs Action Group. Group coordinator Keith Rule said they were 'elated' at the decision. He noted: "It has been a very stressful process and we have endured many years of struggle and effort to defend our rights."
The court ordered both defendants, the developer Cleyton GES SL and bank Caja de Ahorros del Mediterráneo (CAM), to return the off-plan deposits totalling almost 1.5 million euros for houses that were never built at the abandoned Las Higuericas, Finca Parcs development close to Agramón, Albacete.
They also have to pay interest and costs, but have leave to appeal the ruling.
The judge declared the 55 sales contracts terminated due to "serious breaches" by the developer, in particular "the long and indefinite delay in delivery of the properties, the failure to obtain the first occupation licences and the lack of bank guarantees for deposits paid by the buyers".
Five blazes burn in just over one weekRegional government warns public of a high risk summer season ahead
By David Eade and Suzan Davenport
FIRE services along the coast are on red alert after one of the driest winters on record, followed by a wet spring, means that the countryside is more vulnerable than ever to flash fires. Just this week specialist Infoca fire fighting crews have been called out five times to extinguish blazes along the Costa del Sol.
In one of the incidents three homes were evacuated last Wednesday as a preventative measure after a fire broke out on a high hill behind the Casares hamlet of Secadero, by the Guadiaro river opposite San Martín de Tesorillo in Cádiz province.
Scrub land was destroyed in the blaze which ran adjacent to the Soto Colorado urbanisation where the three properties are situated. The fire broke out at 4.35pm but was doused within two hours. Fire teams stayed on site to ensure there were no subsequent flare-ups.
Three families were also evacuated from their homes on Monday after a fire broke out on land alongside the Beverly Hills urbanization in Estepona. No injuries or damage to the homes was reported and the fire, which destroyed two hectares of scrub, was extinguished quickly by Infoca firefighters.
On Tuesday the latest blaze in the Vélez Málaga area - in a chain of three fires in the last week and six over the last month - broke out close to the Alborán urbanisation and the Axarquia school. National Police investigations point to arson, and officers believe all six Vélez fires could be the work of one person. The fire, which damaged scrub land, was brought under control three hours after it started.
Tourism sector calls for government support
Industry is decelerating following last year's boost from Arab Spring unrest
By Oliver McIntyre
THE SPANISH tourism sector says it is experiencing a deceleration and has called on the government to take measures to bolster the industry as one of the country's main economic engines.
The tourism industry group Exceltur made the call last week while presenting the sector's results for the first quarter, which following the strong growth of 2011 showed an anaemic of 0.1 per cent uptick during the first three months of this year.
Exceltur recently downgraded its projections for the sector for 2012, forecasting negative growth of 0.3 per cent rather than the 0.2 per cent positive growth it had previously predicted.
The group's vice-president, José Luis Zoreda, noted that last year's strong performance was due in part to Spain benefiting from the Arab Spring unrest as tourists sought out safer destinations. In his comments, made last week during a presentation of the Google-sponsored Lookinside.travel study, Sr Zoreda said that now tourism markets in north African countries such as Egypt and Tunisia are beginning to recover.
A break for homeowners as Euribor dives
By Oliver McIntyre
Monthly payments to drop as rate ends May at lowest level since April 2010
MANY mortgage holders in Spain will be getting some relief on their monthly payments after the Euribor interest rate index closed out May at 1.266 per cent, marking its lowest level since April 2010.
May was the seventh consecutive month of decline for the Euribor, the most widely used basis for setting the interest of variable-rate loans in Spain.
The Euribor for May was down 0.881 points from the same month last year, meaning mortgage-holders with an annual rate adjustment based on the May figure will see a reduction in their monthly payments. For an average 150,000-euro, 25-year loan the drop would be nearly 65 euros a month, or close to 760 euros for the year.