Home News Regional News THE DARK SIDE OF TOURISM


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With two separate events in the planning, one a covert nightmare that has haunted residents for years, the other a dream of a local business group looking to take control and cash in on the growing phenomenon, not only have the residents of the Orihuela Costa had to endure an evening of noise and disturbance, not to mention an incredible amount of litter and rubbish, as thousands of revellers descended on Campoamor this week, they will also have to foot the bill for both the security and cleanup operation for what is nothing more than an illegal party which the authorities are powerless to prevent.

In 1999 a local nightclub, not wishing to miss out on the lucrative summer period, decided to hold an outdoor party. That party has since grown into an event which has become amplified since the dawn of social network sites, with tens of thousands of youngsters, both locally and from further afield, descending on the area to party into the night, with an accompaniment of alcohol and other substances.

Last year, the police themselves reported that 20,000 people had attended, despite their attempts to discourage the arrival of the hoards, many of whom even hire buses and coaches to bring them. This year was not dissimilar, but for an added complication of a local business creating a ticket only and enclosed party and turn the gathering into an official music festival.

Permission to hold the Campoamor Music Festival was originally sought for the 15th of August, which was provisionally accepted by the town hall, subject to a variety of safety standards being approved. However, the organiser then decided to change the date to the 6th of August, which happened to coincide with the first Wednesday of the month, which has become historically known as the day for the illegal “botellón”. Aware of this clash, the coastal department were already against the event taking place, but the activities department of the town hall was still originally prepared to consider it, subject to the same safety standards.

On the Friday before the event, and the Monday immediately before Wednesday the 6th, representatives from the town hall appeared before the press and the public to confirm that permission for the event had not been given, pleading with attendees to avoid the area, and they would do everything within their power to prevent the organised event from taking place.

The organisers still maintained on their website, Facebook and Twitter feeds that they did have permission, and that the event would take place, claiming to have already sold 6,000 tickets to people wanting to attend. However, on the day, the police arrived and closed off the grounds, forcing everybody involved in the preparation to leave, based on a decree issued by the town hall.

The main issue raised by the town hall was that of safety, as the principle access to the site was through a small tunnel, just wide enough for a passenger car to drive through, but considered to be of extreme risk should a large number of people try to pass through it at one time. In 2010, 21 people lost their lives and more than 500 were injured at the “Love Parade” in Germany, where access to the site was also through a similar tunnel. In 2012 in Madrid, 4 people lost their lives when a minor incident at a party caused the mass of attendees to move, which resulted in a stampede and those victims being killed from crush injuries. Other access and egress points had been arranged by the organisers, but it was the tunnel route which led to the site of the “botellón”, and therefore the most likely path to be taken.

Whilst there is no doubt that wrist bands for the Campoamor Music Festival had been purchased, the exact confirmed number is unknown, although the organisers have said that they will provide refunds to those who did buy them, with purchasers advised to return to their point of sale.

The action of closing down that organised event still didn´t seem to deter the visitors to the beachside gathering, but once again the town hall tried to discourage attendance. They had already refused any kind of organised music, and had the support from the police and Guardia Civil to act in the event of illegal activities taking place, but other than that, the town hall remained powerless, as did the authorities, other than to make the whole experience for those attending as disappointing as possible, in the hope of discouragement in the future.

In order to ensure the safety of everybody either involved and living or staying in the surrounding area, a contingency plan was put in place with the police sealing off areas of the beaches and the pine forests, a fire engine was on standby throughout the night at the scene in case of burning, the Protección Civil and emergency services had a temporary portacabin base, an emergency field hospital was set up, complete with a doctor, lifeguards and activity managers were all at the scene, as well as the strong presence by the police, which at least meant that the night went without any major incident, injury or death, but at a price.

As the sun rose, so did the “zombies” walking the streets, trying to find their way home. An image of bodies sleeping in the street, surrounded by broken glass, litter and rubbish is not the impression any area would like to give as being the norm, but it was certainly the case on the Orihuela Costa on Thursday morning. Drink and possibly drug fuelled partygoers, wandering through the roads, passing in front of moving cars, oblivious to the danger, and yet still seemingly believing that they had had a good night, but not providing any financial contribution to the mass operation that had kept them safe. Sources close to the Guardia Civil report that numerous drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs had been caught at the Campoamor roundabout, as the safety net surrounded the area.

Similarly, the army of cleaners that descended on the area, more than any year previous, with waste disposal trucks, jet washers, mechanical diggers, trucks and vans, with teams of people all now working with one goal, to clean up the mess as quickly as possible. Even the team of 30 workers who have been carrying out maintenance and street cleaning on temporary contracts were involved, as it became on “all hands on deck” event to clean up the mess.

Of course, whilst almost the entire municipal cleaning team focussed on the Campoamor area, that also meant that other areas would suffer, as there was nobody left to carry out the day to day cleaning operation either. This aftermath operation also has a considerable cost, which the residents of Orihuela ultimately have to pay.

For the past 15 years this illegal event has taken place, with nobody yet able to prevent it from happening, nor make anybody accountable for the organisation and bill. Perhaps the creation of a “legal” gathering is the only solution, but that must be done with the safety considerations all being put into the action plan to prevent disasters such as occurred in Berlin and Madrid. This can only be done through collaboration however, as one emergency doctor who has dealt with similar incidents in the past said in reference to the Campoamor Music Festival, “I regret that a company does not yet have awareness of what can happen. We can only be thankful that this serves as an example of how not to manage a crisis”, as beyond the barriers of their enclosed space, the crisis management was very much in place, resulting in a safe and eventless night, albeit at a cost now, and quite possibly into the future.

Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/44558/

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