10 November, 2008

A study by the Andalucian Consumers in Action Federation (Facua) has shown that people can save up to 70% in dentist fees if they shop around first. As an example, Facua used oral hygiene treatments, which some dentists do for as little as €35 while others charge €60. Having a tooth pulled out costs between €50 and €80, although the health centres provide this service free. The Facua report, based on a survey of 116 dental clinics in the eight Andalucian capitals, found differences of up to €300 in the prices of some dental treatments.


27 October, 2008

Golf legend Seve Ballesteros underwent a successful third operation last Friday to reduce swelling and remove remnants of a tumour in his brain. The operation, led by chief brain surgeon Javier Heredero at La Paz Hospital in Madrid, lasted more than six hours. In a statement, doctors said the 51-year-old five-time major winner was in a stable condition in the hospital’s intensive care unit. Ballesteros was admitted to hospital after briefly losing consciousness at Madrid Airport on October 6th. He was subsequently diagnosed with a brain tumour and underwent surgery, but he needed another operation to relieve pressure on the brain last Tuesday. In an open letter to fans, he acknowledged the seriousness of the illness – saying he faced what he called the “most difficult match” of his life. Ballesteros won 87 titles during his career, including the Open in 1979, 1984 and 1988 and the Masters in 1980 and 1983. He was an instrumental figure in Europe’s Ryder Cup resurgence after making his debut in 1979 when the competition was expanded from Great Britain and Ireland to include players from continental Europe. After controversially being left out in 1981, Ballesteros returned in 1983 and helped Europe beat the United States for the first time in 28 years in 1985 to begin two decades of dominance. He went on to win eight caps, winning 22 and a half points from 37 matches. He also teamed up with countryman Jose Maria Olazabal to form the most successful partnership in Ryder Cup history, with 11 wins, two losses and two halves. After his last appearance as a player in 1995, Ballesteros captained Europe to victory on home soil at Valderrama in 1997. He retired last year following arthritic back and knee problems late in his career, while doctors discovered an irregular heartbeat when he was admitted to hospital in 2007.


27 October, 2008

The 46-year-old British man whose body was found in a flat in Barcelona on October 8th has been identified as Derek Cowan, who had been living in Spain for the past seven years. The Scottish businessman was found bludgeoned to death in a pool of blood by his German business partner. Detectives investigating the murder want to interview a former business associate, William Madley, who was due to meet with Mr Cowan on the day he was found dead. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office have confirmed that they are in contact with the Spanish authorities and a full investigation is underway by the Catalan regional police, Los Mossos d’Esquadra.


20 October, 2008

Golf legend Seve Ballesteros suffered a complication following surgery on a brain tumour last Tuesday but is said to be in a stable condition, after doctors removed a piece of his skull last Thursday to relieve pressure that was building up on the brain. Ballesteros, 51, collapsed in Madrid’s Barajas Airport on October 6th. He underwent a number of tests, which uncovered the tumour. A biopsy on the tumour had been scheduled for last Tuesday but doctors decided to operate to remove as much of the tumour as possible before treatment. Ballesteros won 87 titles during his career, including the Open in 1979, 1984 and 1988 and the Masters in 1980 and 1983 and captained Europe to Ryder Cup victory at Valderrama in 1997. He retired last year following arthritic back and knee problems late in his career and doctors discovered an irregular heartbeat when he was admitted to hospital in 2007.


13 October, 2008

A British woman and one of her twin daughters died in a flash flood in Valencia last Thursday. Lorraine Cullen, 47, and Lauren, 14, died trying to cross a ravine with fellow twin Samantha and the girls’ Spanish friend Gemma. Mark Cullen said the swollen river was only up to their knees but “one of them slipped and the others came crashing down”. He said Samantha grabbed hold of a tree and pulled Gemma to safety but “Lorraine and Lauren were gone”. The incident happened as the group attempted to walk across the ravine to their holiday home in L’Olleria in the Valencia region. Their bodies were found early last Friday morning, just over a mile downriver. Mr Cullen flew out to Valencia with his sons Daniel, 22, and Darren, 19, to be with his surviving daughter as she was treated at a local hospital. He and his wife had just celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. He said: “It’s a blur, you don’t expect to lose two members of your family in one hit.” Last week’s torrential rain left several rivers in the east of the country running dangerously high and closed the ports of Valencia, Gandia and Sagunto. It also blocked roads and railway lines. Ferry links to Tangier and Ceuta were suspended because of storms.


13 October, 2008

A Barcelona company fired a woman worker last week for “unjustified absences from work” – as the woman lay in a coma in hospital. Sandra Tejero’s family immediately hired a lawyer who said he suspected the company – El Punt del Peix – was trying to wriggle out of having to pay her wages during what could turn out to be a long period of time. Sra Tejero fell off her motorbike three weeks ago on her way home from work. She suffered a punctured lung and the injury brought on a heart attack causing cerebral damage. The doctors said her life is not in danger but admit they have no idea how long she will be in a coma.


6 October, 2008

Around 500 health workers marched through the centre of Malaga last Thursday to protest a shortfall of 500 staff across the province – 200 doctors, and 300 nurses and administrative staff. They warned that the province’s health centres face a chaotic time this Christmas. They said services will have to be cut back and there will be delay in making appointments because the Andalucian Health Service has failed to cover the shortfall. The Comisiones Obreros (Workers Commissions) union spokesman, Rafael González, and other union leaders said waiting lists would soar as a result. They said that the Junta de Andalucia is denying there is a problem but the unions plan to hold a meeting in Sevilla ahead of making a decision on possible strike action in November. A Junta spokesman denied there were any cut-backs. He said the Junta’s objective was to stabilise employment in the health sector.


6 October, 2008

Workers who clean Malaga’s beach are used to finding all kinds of weird things but a group of them were surprised last week when they came across a funeral urn – which still had the ashes inside. They took it to the police who, thanks to the name inscribed on it, were able to discover that the ashes belonged to a woman and to trace one of her sons. He told them his 84-year-old father had been entrusted with the rite of scattering his wife’s ashes into the sea, as she had requested. Apparently the man took the urn to the beach and threw the whole thing into the water, ashes and all. But the sea decided to return it to the shore, hence the beach cleaners’ surprise last week.


6 October, 2008

Spain, Italy, Greece and Morocco have asked the UN Organisation for Education, Science and Culture – Unesco – to declare the so-called Mediterranean Diet a Non-material World Heritage. The final document, drawn up by the Mediterranean Diet Foundation, was presented to Unesco in Paris last week. The Mediterranean Diet is a set of practices, skills and knowledge developed by the Mediterranean peoples over the centuries which has contributed enormously to their longevity. Unesco is expected to hand down its verdict early next year.


15 September, 2008

King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia presided the state funeral of the 154 victims of the Spanair plane crash at Barajas airport on August 20th, which was held in the Almudena Cathedral in Madrid last Thursday It was officiated by the Cardinal Archbishop of Madrid, Antonio María Rouco Valera. The funeral was also attended by Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and his wife Sonsoles, Firast Deputy Prime Minister María Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, Madrid Community President Esperanza Aguirre, Madrid Mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon and opposition leader Mariano Rajoy. In response to criticisms by the Union of Islamic Communities and the Evangelical Church that the religious ceremony was a strictly Catholic one, the deputy prime minister said that had been the wish of the victims’ families.


8 September, 2008

The Guardia Civil report on the road accident on the A-7 on April 19th in which nine Finnish tourists were killed and 31 were injured has confirmed that the driver was over the alcohol limit and was travelling at 155.3 kph just before he hit the bus as he tried to overtake it. It said hardly any of the passengers were wearing seat belts when the accident happened and that the crash barrier had increased the damage done to both the vehicle and its passengers. The 17-year-old driver was released on bail of €18,000 after spending six weeks in jail.


8 September, 2008

The Junta de Andalucia presented its draft law for the right to a dignified death last week, which does not include what is referred to as “active” euthanasia that is, doctors will not be forced to help the patient die. However, when the law comes into force – towards the end of next year – patients will have the right to reject treatments aimed at prolonging their life, although they will be able to demand painkilling drugs. They will also have the right to ask for a comprehensible, detailed report of their illness in order to help them make the decision. When the patient is hospitalised, the family will have the right to ask for an individual room so that they can accompany their loved one to the end.


8 September, 2008

Interior Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba announced last web that 450 died on the roads in July and August this years, 89 less than last year and the lowest figure since 1964. He said deaths among young people aged up to 24 had dropped by 63%, the biggest drop in the past five years. He attributed the drop to the fact that young people are more influenced by road safety campaigns. Fatal accidents involving motor cyclists were also down by 30%. And the good news didn’t stop there. The minister said that so far this year there has been an overall drop of 18% in deaths on the road, down from 1,837 last year to 1,626.


1 September, 2008

By the end of last week, the government’s fears that it would not be possible to identify all the victims of the Spaniar crash proved to be unfounded. By Saturday, all 154 bodies had been identified and were being escorted by grieving families to their places of origin for burials that were attended by hundreds of people. The Spainair flight from Madrid to the Canary Islands crashed shortly after take-off on August 20th. Only 18 of 172 passengers and crew survived the accident. One of the air hostesses who survived told investigators a passenger who was a pilot remarked as the plane went down the runway that there was something wrong. The MD82 plane veered into a dry river bed just after take-off from Madrid’s Barajas airport. It then broke up and burst into flames, setting light to surrounding vegetation. Experts had to use DNA analysis, fingerprints and dental information to identify some of the badly burned bodies. Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said last week that was the main reason why the identification process was taking longer than expected. Reporting to Parliament last Thursday, Development Minister Magdalena Alvarez said Spanair had considered switching the aircraft at the last minute after the flight had been delayed for about an hour because of a problem with an air temperature gauge. She said Spanair “told the airport control centre that it had decided to continue with the plane, which is the one that crashed”. A Spanair spokesman said the company had at no time considered changing planes but had merely told the control centre that another plane was available if necessary. According to the newspaper El Pais, sources close to the inquiry have said the plane may have lacked sufficient engine power during take-off. The paper reported that video footage showed the plane travelled much further along the runway than normal before getting airborne. The government has promised a full investigation into the crash, which is the country’s worst air accident in 25 years.


25 August, 2008

Four young men were killed instantly when the care they were in ran head-on into a water tanker early on Sunday morning at kilometre 36 ion the N-340 just outside Vejer de la Frontera, Cadiz province. Police said the car was a total wipe-out. The lorry driver was slightly hurt and his vehicle suffered minor damage. Thery said all four victims were from Algeciras. The N-340 is one of the most travelled roads in Andalucia in the summer, used by Moroccans heading to and fro on their vacations, as well as by tourists heading for the Cadiz beaches.


25 August, 2008

A British woman who lives in Ronda was rescued after disappearing for three days last week while visiting El Gestor in Cádiz province. The 53-year-old woman, identified only as R.M.B., slipped and fell while taking her morning walk last Tuesday. She eventually turned up last Thursday afternoon in Alto Algarán where she told the authorities that she had hit her head when she fell and became disoriented. She then stumbled into some bushes and lay there until the pain from a wound in her hip subsided, when she managed to drag herself to Alto Algarán. She said she had seen the helicopter that had been sent out to look for her but was unable to move to attract its attention. Rescuers with dogs had also combed the area where she disappeared without success.


25 August, 2008

One of the 19 survivors of last Wednesday’s plane crash at the Barajas airport near Madrid died last Saturday, bringing the number of people killed in the crash to 154. Maria Luisa Estevez Gonzalez had been badly burned when Spanair flight JK 5022, bound for the Canary Islands, crashed just after take-off. Madrid’s health service said that two other survivors remain in a very serious condition. Of the two babies and 20 children who were on board the flight, only three children survived the crash. The authorities have said 19 foreigners from Germany, France, Sweden, Mauritania, Turkey, Brazil, Indonesia, Bulgaria, Italy, Colombia and Gambia were on the plane. The government has promised a full investigation into the crash, which is the country’s worst air accident in 25 years. Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega told reporters last Friday that experts had so far only been able to identify 59 people using fingerprint analysis. Most of the remaining victims will have to be identified using DNA techniques because they were so badly burned in the accident. Investigators believe a chain of faults, rather than a single engine failure, probably caused the crash. Civil aviation chief Manuel Bautista said: “A set of causes probably came together to cause the accident.” According to the media, a video of the crash – which has so far not been made public – showed that an engine had not exploded beforehand, as some witnesses stated. Sr Bautista said he has seen – but would not comment on – the video in question. He said it was not clear whether a fault with a temperature gauge, which led the pilots to abandon their first attempted take-off, could have played a part in the accident. He told reporters: “A problem with a temperature sensor may not matter at all or it can be very important, depending on what other circumstances accompany it. We will have to see what other issues were present.” Sr Bautista said even if one engine had failed, that should not have been enough to bring the plane down. Investigators are now assessing whether a loss of power on take-off caused the crash. The authorities say enough information has been recovered from the crash site, including flight data and voice recorders, to thoroughly examine what happened to Spanair flight JK5022. The results of the investigation, by a team of technicians, with help from US experts, should be known in about a month. Spanair insists the plane was fit to fly, and that there were no short cuts taken before the flight. But the company is bearing the brunt of relatives’ anger. The airline has been in financial difficulty, and only hours before the crash, pilots had threatened to strike over proposals to cut staff. They are also angry about the delay in identifying the victims. However, the government is not prepared to rush the tests in order to avoid the mistakes in identity that were made when a Yak-42 bringing Spanish soldiers home from Afghanistan crashed when flying over Turkey. Thirty of the 62 soldiers who died in the crash were not correctly identified. The first funerals started to take place last Friday, when the official three days of mourning started, with flags at half-mast all over Spain. One of the first to be buried was 21-year-old Isaac Dominguez from Salamanca, who survived the crash but died later in hospital. Hundreds of people attended the funeral of Amalia Filloy and her 14-year-old daughter, also named Amalia. Amalia Filloy made headlines after a firefighter who was one of the first to arrive at the crash scene told reporters that she had begged him to save her 11-year-old daughter Maria first. A funeral was also held in the Canary Islands, the destination of the flight and home to about half of its passengers and crew, for a soldier named David Caballero. Caballero was based in Madrid and was returning to the Canaries for a holiday with his family. Madrid Mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon announced last Saturday that the archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco, will preside over a memorial service for all of the victims of the crash on September 1st in the Almudena Cathedral.


18 August, 2008

Prince Kardam of Bulgaria, the eldest son of the former king of Bulgaria, was seriously injured when his car crashed into a tree in Madrid highway last Friday. The 46-year-old prince was taken to the Doce de Octubre hospital in Madrid by helicopter with serious head and hand injuries. His wife, Miriam Ungria, 45, was taken to the La Paz hospital in north Madrid with lesser injuries. The prince’s father, Simeon Saxe-Coburg, was king of the Balkan state for three years until 1946 when the communist regime abolished the monarchy and exiled the royal family. He returned to Bulgaria in 2001 and was prime minister until 2005. Prince Kardman and his wife are very close to the Spanish royal family.


11 August, 2008

Six people were killed in a head-on collision on the CM-401 Madrid-Toledo road last Friday when the driver of a Citroen C-4 overtook two cars, apparently not aware of the Seat Ibiza coming in the opposite direction. The five people in the Seat belonged to the same family. The driver, Marimar, had gone to Getafe in Madrid with her 9-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son to collect her sister and her mother to take them back to spend the summer at her home in the small town of Galvez near Toledo. Instead, all five returned to Getafe to be buried the next day. The police said the driver of the other car, a young married man with two children, had not tested positive for drugs or alcohol. The accident happened just as the Traffic Authority in Madrid began to celebrate 45 years of often brutal summer campaigns aimed at reducing the number of deaths on the road. Figures for this year so far indicate that road deaths are down by at least 30% over last year, for which the points system introduced just over a year ago and the recent penalisation of several traffic violations have been credited.


11 August, 2008

A 20-year-old man was electrocuted when he put his head inside an electricity pylon opposite a club in Gandia, Valencia, in the early hours of Sunday morning. Firemen and medics tried to revive him but later said he had died instantly. At the time of going to press, police were still questioning witnesses about what the man’s motives could have been.