Costa del Sol News - 26th November 2012

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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Prestige captain lays blame on Spain

Trial over Spain's worst environmental disaster is underway

By Dave Jamieson

THE CAPTAIN of the Prestige oil tanker, which sank off the coast of Galicia creating Spain's biggest environmental disaster, has blamed Spanish authorities for the tragedy. Apostolos Mangouras's testimony last week was part the ongoing trial against him and three other individuals over the sinking of the Prestige in November 2002 when thousands of tons of fuel spilt into the sea and onto 1,600 kilometres of coasts in northern Spain and southern France.

The Spanish authorities decided that the vessel carrying 77,000 tons of oil should not enter any port after the captain raised an emergency. Instead, it was towed out to sea where it eventually split in two and sank. The Greek captain, now 77 years old, broke down as he gave his evidence in court.

He claimed that the Spanish authorities treated him like a criminal and denied failing to cooperate with them. He said Spain sent the tanker out into the Atlantic where a storm was brewing, and described the decision as "the worst alternative". He added, "They sent us in a floating coffin ... to drown."

Prosecutors have charged the captain with criminal damage to the environment and to a protected nature reserve, and have called for a jail term of 12 years, plus over four billion euros in damages. He spent 83 days in a Spanish jail after the Prestige went down.

Earlier he told the court that he had noticed some rust in the vessel's storage tanks when he took command of her in September 2002, but added he had seen no breakage. Asked by the prosecutor why he had signed a report two weeks before the disaster stating there were no defects in the tanks, he said he was not qualified to determine the level of corrosion and did not participate in the inspection. He also said he had been unaware that the Prestige had already been banned from a dozen ports around the world.

Eviction solution not satisfactory, say critics

Magistrates and other groups call measures ‘arbitrary' and too restricted

By Dave Jamieson

AS EXPECTED, ministers at last week's Cabinet meeting approved a series of measures to tackle the growing problem of evictions because of mortgage defaults (CDSN last week). However, the decree was immediately described as "arbitrary" and "insufficient" by professional groups who claim that the government has taken the side of the lenders instead of protecting citizen rights.

Those to be awarded special protection from being evicted must meet a series of requirements. One of these states that those households which include three children are eligible but that those with two are not, while single mothers with one child are not eligible but those with two children are. The Professional Magistrates Association has queried why some children appear to have fewer rights than others, and has called for the criteria to be more flexible to allow for assessing critical cases.

The association Judges for Democracy has noted that, while a two-year moratorium can now be imposed, the debt owed by the homeowner will continue to grow during that period of time. The group's spokesman Joaquim Bosch has been reported to have claimed that this was a deliberate move on the part of ministers.

At the same time as the government was announcing the details of the decree in Madrid, a Valencia court gave a last-minute ruling to suspend the eviction of a single mother and her 13-year-old daughter.

However, the following morning a 50-year-old man under threat of losing his home in Córdoba threw himself out of a second-floor window. He died from his injuries shortly after a medical team arrived at the scene.

Inquiry after bullied schoolgirl commits suicide

School councillor denied her request to be transferred to a different school

By Oliver McIntyre

AUTHORITIES have opened an investigation after a 16-year-old schoolgirl in Ciudad Real committed suicide following alleged abuse from classmates.

Mónica Jaramillo had reported the bullying to school officials, but they had rejected her request to be moved to a different school.

Regional education chief Marcial Marín confirmed that days before she committed suicide the Ecuadorian girl and her father met with a councillor at the Maestro Juan de Ávila secondary school, who then met with the students she said had been harassing her, and with their parents.

In his report the councillor concluded that "this was not a case of repeated and continual harassment," which is the benchmark for recommending a change of schools. She was offered only a change of class.

The following day, the girl attempted to commit suicide in her family's home, and after four days in the ICU, she died in hospital.

PSOE launches campaign against Costa gas exploration

Repsol is currently expected to carry out the prospecting between February and April of 2013

By Oliver McIntyre

THE SOCIALIST PSOE party has launched a campaign that will travel the length of the Málaga coastline expressing opposition to planned gas prospecting off the coast.

The new push against the drilling was launched on Monday in Marbella, where provincial PSOE officials along with several of the party's regional and national MPs gathered on the beach to highlight the damage the gas prospecting would pose to the province's all-important tourism industry, "the only sector that generates employment".

The move comes after the minister for industry, energy and tourism, José Manuel Soria, sent mixed messages last week when he stated that the authorisation given to Repsol to carry out prospecting will not be revoked, but that in the event that the exploration is successful, the government would not authorise exploitation of the gas reserve.

Sr Soria's statements in the Senate came in response to a question from PSOE MP for Málaga Pilar Serrano, who participated in the launch of the opposition campaign in Marbella on Monday.

Pensioners' precious home trashed by tenants

Pensioners' left with huge clean up bill want to warn others to watch out

By Robin Savory

AN EXPAT pensioner and grandmother and her friend tried to reduce their living expenses by letting their precious home of 25 years and renting something smaller nearby only to face bills totalling more than 10,000€ after only a few months and a property that the tenants systematically trashed.

"We are absolutely heartbroken" says Jean Leftwick. "The tenants only moved in during March, and by April the damage, abuse and intimidation started. We tried to get rid of them early on and it has taken until last week to get them out because we were too slow in issuing a denuncia and eviction notice."

The damage caused by the young couple includes the complete destruction of a concrete cover on a balsa in an abortive attempt to turn it into a swimming pool, the theft of the irrigation system pumps, the removal of the electronics of the Jacuzzi, of power, refusal to pay rent, refusal to pay for power, telephone and water, a 900€ legal bill, illegally running businesses from a residential property, breaking into the property after being evicted and causing further damage to internal fixtures and fittings and leaving a large amount of rubbish, some of it toxic and dangerous all over the plot.

"At the moment our precious house is unlettable and unsaleable. We rented it out to this young couple who came through what we thought was a reputable letting agent with a view to selling it to them and the man's mother. Instead what we got was a couple who trashed our home, never cleaned it, and damaged the internal and external wiring, and probably removed the electric meter as well.

Omar Sharif to receive film award

Almería film festival to honour veteran actor as province prepares 50th anniversary celebrations for Lawrence of Arabia epic

By Richard Torné

ALMERÍA is gearing up to mark the 50th anniversary of the making of one of the greatest films in cinema history - Lawrence of Arabia - with a string of events in December.

One of the film's stars, Omar Sharif, is to receive a life-time achievement award at next month's international short film festival in Almería.

The 80-year-old actor, who also played the title role in the epic Doctor Zhivago, will personally collect the Almería Tierra de Cine (land of film) award at the gala opening in the Maestro Padilla auditorium in Almería city on December 4.

Sra Vázquez said the event's organisers wanted to honour Sharif on the 50th Anniversary of the film, which was largely filmed in the province and helped launch the Egyptian actor into stardom.


Málaga city hit with major flooding and 16 other towns affected

By Dave Jamieson

THE weather once again brought chaos to the province of Málaga as several bands of very heavy rain and thunderstorms made their way eastwards across southern Spain over the weekend.

An 82-year-old man died of a heart attack in Málaga as fire crews tried to move him to an upper floor. At one point, city authorities called on the public not to use private vehicles to allow maximum access for the emergency services.

In four hours on Saturday morning, the city of Málaga recorded 112 litres per square metre of rainfall, a quarter of its average for the year, and reported to be the heaviest since the floods of 1989. The Asperones was one of the worst hit with 20 families evacuated, while areas of the Civil and Clínco hospitals were flooded.

The westbound A7 motorway was completely closed for 90 minutes on the outskirts of Málaga after rocks and mud slipped onto the carriageway just before the Calderón tunnel. Four kilometres of traffic quickly ground to a halt and had to wait until the road was cleared and reopened.

Two vagrants who habitually sleep beneath the Avenida de Andalucía bridge over the Guadalmedina riverbed in the city had to be rescued by fire crews. They had climbed up the bridge's central pillar to escape the rising water level and become trapped. Both were said to be unhurt in the incident.

El Corte Inglés became an island as water flooded nearby streets and the store's underground car park twice closed its doors for about 15 minutes to prevent the water entering. An enquiry has been opened into how the city's metro system, presently under construction, coped with the inundation.

A total of 17 municipalities in the province were affected by the weekend downpours.

Gang carries out major raid on El Corte Inglés

Thieves nicked one million euros' worth of jewellery from the Puerto Banús store

By David Eade

THREE men carried out an armed raid on El Corte Inglés in Puerto Banús on Sunday.

The gang overcame the store's security guards and made off with the jewellery. The full inventory of stolen items has yet to be completed but the indications are the booty is worth around one million euros.

The thieves struck at 4pm when the gang went to one of the entrances that was closed to the public. They were dressed as a maintenance crew.

Once inside they drew their weapons on one of the three security men on duty. They then rounded up the other two and handcuffed them. The three other people who were in the store were also tied-up.