News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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McGregor, Jones and Travolta head for San SebastianThe actors, plus director Oliver Stone, to be feted at prestigious film festival
By Dave Jamieson
THE ACTORS Ewan McGregor, Tommy Lee Jones and John Travolta are to be honoured at this month's San Sebastian Film Festival. The event's prestigious Donostia Awards are presented to "great film personalities in recognition of their work and career".
Scotland's Ewan McGregor is often hailed as one of the finest of his generation, and the festival organisers said that he "consistently captivates audiences with a diverse line-up of roles across a multitude of genres, styles and scope." These include what it called "a continuous string of bold and daring performances, from his breakthrough role as the heroin-addicted Mark Renton in Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting, to the legendary Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars saga, to starring opposite Nicole Kidman in the musical Moulin Rouge."
McGregor will be in San Sebastian to collect the award at a ceremony on September 27, after which his latest movie, "The Impossible", a drama based on a true story of a family's fight to survive during the 2004 tsunami, will be given its European premiere.
Lights to go back on along A7 in EsteponaStreet lights were shut off a year ago when town hall stopped paying bill
By Dave Eade
IN SEPTEMBER of last year Estepona town hall, along with others along the western Costa del Sol, decided to stop paying the bill for illuminating the A7 dual carriageway as it passes through the municipality. The argument of the Partido Popular administration was that the then socialist government in Madrid should pick up the tab.
Now, a year on, the A7 will again be illuminated within Estepona, but the town hall will not pay the bill. Instead it will be picked up by a company that has acquired the concession to maintain the municipal buildings and infrastructure over the next four years. Under the contract, the company will receive 5.1 million euros, and among its commitments is payment of the A7 lighting bill.
The councillor in charge of managing Estepona's resources, Pilar Fernández-Figares, says the municipality is able to turn the A7 lighting on again as a result of the town hall's good management.
Critics note that while technically the town hall can say it is not paying for the lighting, the company holding the concession has presumably factored in the cost to its contract price.
Regions queue for Liquidity Fund bailoutsAndalucía seeks €1bn bridge loan until bailout funds become available
By Dave Jamieson
ANDALUCÍA wants a bridging loan of a billion euros until the government formally sets up the planned Regional Liquidity Fund to help financially-strapped regions. The region said on Monday that it is waiting for Madrid to announce the conditions under which funds from the 18 billion-euro fund will be available to the country's autonomous regions. Andalucía says it needs the cash to ensure the region's liquidity.
The president of Andalucía said last week that it was getting hard for the region to fund itself. José Antonio Griñán added that there is a "difficult situation in the markets," and called for the government's planned fund to be distributed equitably. "It's a fund that is there for everyone and it has to be shared out fairly," he said, adding, "It can't just be for regions that have asked for advances."
He said that financial institutions were pushing regions such as Andalucía to apply to the government for money from the fund and are no longer funding debt issues. However, he added that it is precisely these institutions which are funding the Liquidity Fund.
Coín bids sad farewell to SergioLocal youth was killed in Bournemouth in July; body was repatriated last week
By Dave Jamieson
MORE than a thousand people attended the funeral last Thursday of the young Coín man who was stabbed to death in the UK in July. Sergio Retamar Márquez, aged 23, was working as a waiter in the south of England when his British flatmate is alleged to have murdered him in the apartment which they shared.
His body was flown home on Wednesday of last week and lay in the town's funeral parlour while images of the victim's life, from when he was a young baby to more recent times, were projected. The funeral was held the following afternoon.
The victim had gone to the UK to learn English but was forced home temporarily after a traffic accident. He had only been back in England for a few weeks when he was killed. Coín has observed two days of official mourning for Sergio, who was well-known in the town.
Costa del Fuego as Málaga hit by nightmare wildfireTown's launch clean-up and recovery efforts following 8,200-hectare inferno
By Dave Jamieson
ONE dead, two seriously injured and others receiving treatment for smoke inhalation. A hundred homes in six municipalities affected, including a dozen completely burned out, and 6,500 people evacuated. Flames across 8,225 hectares tackled by 1,100 fire fighters on the ground supported by 25 aircraft. Last week's fire west of Málaga was the worst in memory on the Costa del Sol.
The outbreak started shortly after 6pm last Thursday in the Barranco Blanco recreational area, a popular beauty spot in Coín. It took hold quickly and spread out of control on three fronts, covering 15 kilometres in three hours, according the Junta's agriculture, fishing and environment councillor, Luis Planas. He said the blaze was propagated quickly by fireballs which are very rare in such outbreaks. Just after 8pm, the fire was declared a Level 1 emergency and the authorities in Coín began the evacuation of around 70 homes scattered in the countryside.
The first front advanced towards Mijas and Marbella, the second centred on Coín and Alhaurín el Grande while the third and most dangerous threatened Ojén where all 4,000 residents were evacuated with the authorities reporting entire families running with suitcases to escape the approaching flames. Residents and tourists were forced out of their homes, hotels and administrative facilities and spent one or more nights in sports complexes and other temporary accommodation.
By 10pm, the La Cala Golf hotel was evacuated and after 1am the fire was approaching the AP7 motorway, which was closed and which it was hoped might act as a fire break. By 2am, the fire was approaching the outskirts of Marbella and power supplies in the area began to be affected as the blaze continued its uncontrolled advance. Shortly after 8am, 30 families on the outskirts of Monda were evacuated as a precautionary measure.
The fire continued throughout Friday and Saturday, before it was finally reported to be fully controlled by 6.30pm on Sunday, since when fire crews have been damping down and tackling a number of spots where it has spontaneously reignited.
The only fatality was a 54-year-old German man, erroneously identified as British at first, who is reported to have returned to his wooden chalet in La Mairena after being evacuated.
Police and gang shootout in Nueva AndalucíaOne suspect suffered spinal injury from a gunshot; another suspect escaped
By David Eade
THERE was a major shootout between the National Police and three dangerous criminals in Nueva Andalucía last week.
The incident occurred on Wednesday night although the details were not released until Friday.
The gun battle took place in the street and resulted in two of the gang members being arrested. One had a serious bullet wound to the spine and the other was held as he tried to escape. The third gangster is still being sought.
The incident took place around midnight on the Nueva Andalucía urbanisation. A property had been under watch by police investigating a series of robberies and thefts from homes. The officers observed a vehicle occupied by the three suspects leaving the premises.
The police then followed the car through the streets of Nueva Andalucía, and when the suspects spotted them and tried to flee, a high-speed chase began. The cars ended up in Calle de los Lirios, where the gun battle took place. As officers arrested two of the men the third used the dark of the night to make his escape.
Petrol prices hit record high, topping €1.50 a litreDespite the hike Spain continues to have cheaper fuel than elsewhere in the EU
By Oliver McIntyre
PETROL prices in Spain have hit an historic high as 95-octane petrol last week inched over the €1.50-per-litre for the first time. The national average was 1.511 per litre - though some areas, including the Costas, have seen even higher prices at the pump.
Diesel also hit a new historic high last week, at 1.42 euros a litre, according to the EU Oil Bulletin. Petrol prices jumped by 2.8 per cent last week, while the price of diesel rose by 1.8 per cent.
Since the start of the high tourism season at the beginning of July, the price for a litre of petrol has surged by 12 per cent while the price of diesel has jumped 8.56 per cent.
The price hikes will hit the pocketbooks of holidaymakers driving to and from their destinations; in August alone the Traffic Department expects a total of 40 million car movements on Spanish highways.
A 55-litre fill-up of petrol now costs €83.11, an increase of over nine euros compared to the start of summer. A fill-up of diesel, at €78.10, has gone up
Smurfs draw thousands to sleepy Serrania villagePolice have released photos and a video showing how the suspected terrorists planned to transport the explosives
By David Eade
NEVER Has a colour been quite so lucrative to council coffers.
In June 2011 the Serranía de Ronda village of Júzcar was painted blue after residents agreed to the change of image so that Sony could promote their village worldwide as the home of the Smurfs for the then new movie.
Little did they expect at the time that a yeaer later their homes would still be blue or that over the intervening period more than 140,000 visitors would be drawn to the normally sleepy village well off the beaten track for tourists.
In May the number of visitors took a dip: could that have signalled the end of the public's fascination with the blue village?
Apparently not because come August the visitor figures flooded back. Right through to September there are special activities laid on for adults and children
500 people evacuated during Estepona fire
In just five days three separate fires have destroyed 95 hectares of land on the Costa del Sol
By David Eade and Dave Jamieson
A FIRE that broke out on Saturday afternoon in the Arroyo Vaquero zone of Estepona, near Estepona Golf, destroyed four properties and six hectares of land. Over 500 people were evacuated from their homes in the Valle Romano urbanisation as a safety measure.
The emergency services were alerted at 13.20 by over 40 calls from worried residents. Seventy-eight Infoca fire personnel attended the scene backed up by four fire fighting helicopters. In addition fire brigades from Estepona, Marbella and Ronda were called in to help put out the blaze.
Traffic on the A7 was cut for the entire afternoon and the road only re-opened at 21.00. The Bahía Estepona apartments were evacuated as well as Lobón beach, the Bahía Azul, Arena Beach, Beverly Hills and Don Pedro urbanisations where in all 500 people were affected.
The 30 km per hour Poniente winds made fighting the flames difficult and the helicopters dropped water on the flames and ahead of the blaze to wet the ground.
The local leftwing Izquierda Unida party issued an immediate call for an action plan to remove all the scrub and clean up the land around urbanisations and natural areas of the municipality. It accused the town hall of "negligence" in "abandoning" these lands.
Investigators are now examining the scene to determine what started the fire.
Botched restoration job a hit with the public
An on-line petition to halt council plans to return the fresco to its original condition has received over 17,000 signatures
By Dave Jamieson
CECILIA Giménez has become a reluctant celebrity after she admitted responsibility for a bungled restoration job on a church fresco in the Zaragoza village of Borja.
The 81-year-old decided to tackle the 1910 image of Christ with a crown of thorns because it was showing signs of deterioration from moisture in the Santuario de Misericodia Church.
The original face has been painted over in what the local town hall calls "a botched job" and councillors have called in art experts to see what can be done.
The attempted restoration was only discovered when descendents of the artist made a donation to the fresco's maintenance and an expert was sent to check on its condition.
A local councillor said the woman was acting "spontaneously and with good intentions." He said that she has confessed what had happened as soon as she realised "that things had got out of hand." However, Cecilia Giménez last week claimed the local priest knew what she was doing and it was no secret.
News of Cecilia's efforts filled the Spanish media last week and she was reported to be confined to bed with stress brought on by the amount of attention she has attracted.
However, in a strange twist, there have now been calls for her work to be left in place.
An on-line petition to halt town hall plans to return the fresco to its original condition has received over 17,000 signatures. According to the petition's organisers at change.org, the restoration "reveals a subtle criticism of the Church's creationist theories while questioning a resurgence of new idols."
'Rubbish police' to search bags to nab offenders
Culprits could face fines of up to 3,000 euros
By Oliver McIntyre
MIJAS town hall is forming a squad of 'rubbish police' to inspect trash bags that have been left outside of rubbish bins or in other zones, in an effort to identify the culprits - who could face fines of up to 3,000 euros.
They will also look for rubbish bags in which recyclable material is mixed in with regular rubbish, which is prohibited under a municipal bylaw that regulates what materials can be deposited in rubbish containers.
Officials say the rubbish squad, made up of town hall workers, will go through bags "in search of clues leading to the authors of this un-civic behaviour," with the goal of "putting and end to the accumulation of bags of rubbish on the ground by containers, a situation that creates an awful image unbecoming of a tourist town".