A Spanish couple, arrested in Estepona on suspicion of starting the fire which destroyed the town’s Laguna Village complex at the end of August, were provisionally released by a judge on September 3. They are facing charges of serious negligence and making an illegal connection to the public power supply.
The judge also confiscated the passports of the man and woman, aged 43 and 51, while ordering them to report to the court office every fortnight. Estepona Town Council said it might also start a private prosecution against the couple alongside the public charges.
A Level One emergency was declared on August 29 as flames spread rapidly. Around 30 homes, a restaurant and an hotel were evacuated, while the A-7 motorway was closed in both directions. One home was destroyed and evacuees spent the night in a municipal sports centre.
When the flames reached Laguna Village, the fire spread rapidly between wooden buildings with thatched roofs, leaving the area completely gutted within minutes. Remarkably, despite considerable panic, no one died or was injured in the incident which razed 42 hectares of land in total and was attended by around 50 fire fighters supported by four helicopters.
Investigators from the National Police say that a failure in a electrical appliance in the couple’s home began the fire which spread rapidly fanned by high winds. They added that shack where they lived, four kilometres from the town centre, had been connected illegally to the public electricity supply 100 metres away by a cable which ran across the ground.
The mayor of Estepona, José María García Urbano, has called on business owners at Laguna Village to work with the town hall to rebuild the shopping and leisure complex by next Easter. The town hall has already waived rent and local taxes for those who hold concessions on the land which is council owned, while approval has been given to plans to restart building as soon as possible.