THE mayor of Finestrat appeared in court in Benidorm charged with negligence, resulting in death and injury, following the Finestrat market tragedy of last October when two British pensioners drowned, and several other individuals were injured.
Mayor Honorato Algado has a his defence lawyer, the same advocate who last month managed to secure an acquittal for the ex Valencian government leader Fransisco Camps, when he was tried on corruption charges.
He was subjected to 90 minutes of questioning by the presiding judge.
The mayor’s defence argued that he was not made aware of any impending danger on the day of the tragedy, when a flood of water travelled down a dry river bed from inland mountains, destroying a market in the Cala area. The market had operated for years in the same spot.
He said that no pre-emergency warning was given by the responsible authorities that would have resulted in an evacuation of the dry riverbed.
The inundation started some six miles inland, when banks were breached, and a wave of water moved at pace to the coast following its old route, until it hit the market stalls.
The defence argued that at no time were they notified of any danger, saying that the fine imposed recently in respect of Finestrat illegally tarmacing the river bed was one of administration, and not safety; saying that the dry river bed could have been used quite legally provided that the relevant authority (Confederation Júcar (CHJ)) had been paid a fee.
The imposed restrictions were in place, according to the defence, as a way of obtaining permissions through licences for occupation, and as such, were simply a revenue matter.
A fund of some €75,000 has been set up by Finstrat to compensate the economic loss suffered by the 150 traders who lost their stalls and stock in the flood.
On the day of the tragedy, there was only light drizzle in the mountain village of Finestrat itself, and therefore there was no hint of the calamity that was about to occur.
Therefore no warnings were issued. A few years ago a similar flood washed stalls into the sea, but then without the fatal consequences of last October. The defence said they did not and could not forsee the tragedy.
The prosecution might argue that the function of the CHJ is to preserve safety in the areas they control (dry river beds included), and as such the reason for granting permissions – which could be denied- is to avoid occupation in potentially flood prone areas.
They might also argue that given the previous flood and the fact that the CHJ exists for safety reasons, that such a tragedy should have been foreseeable .
The case continues.
By Paul Deed