The hole through which Mónica fell into the water below. :: P. J. Quero
A 14-year-old girl lost her life on Saturday evening when she fell into an irrigation channel near her home in the area known as Paredones, in the municipality of Álora. The teenager, named Mónica, had gone out for a walk with her dog and was crossing the concrete paving that covers the channel when a slab gave way.
Relatives found her some 300 metres further down the channel from the hole, as she had been dragged along by the strong current. The teenager was still alive when she was pulled out of the water by her cousin’s boyfriend but nothing could be done to save her. She was declared dead after the emergency services tried to revive her for an hour in the ambulance.
The fatal accident has led to fierce criticism of the condition of these covered irrigation channels throughout the Guadalhorce valley.
At the spot where Mónica fell the slab that gave way was not the only one in poor condition. The rest are cracked and their surface is uneven.
Local farmers have been complaining about their poor state of repair and calling for a complete renovation programme since the provincial association they belong to, Aprema, was founded in 2000. The existing network of channels dates back to the sixties.
The association’s secretary general Juan Antonio Aguilar said on Monday: “We have always complained that this infrastructure is obsolete and antediluvian, referring more to its irrigation function rather than safety, but if something is obsolete, it’s obsolete in every respect.”
Aguilar pointed out that the project to cover over the main irrigation channel had been abandoned. “They did one stretch and the money was provided for the rest but it hasn’t been done,” he said.
The project was even announced in Álora in 2011 by the then provincial Environment delegate for the Junta de Andalucía, Remedios Martel, who quoted a budget of 11 million euros. The billboard informing of the works can still be seen not far from the spot where the teenager fell. The aim of the project had been to improve the capacity of the network and prevent accidents and uncontrolled dumping.
The plans were to cover over the two main channels (one of them in Paredones) which run either side of the River Guadalhorce, as well as improving the smaller channels that carry water away from the main route.
Juan Antonio Aguilar said that the Environment Department had ignored Aprema’s demands for a complete overhaul of the network that would cost some 150 million euros.
The representative warned that irrigation channels were in poor condition in other areas as well, especially in Campanillas.
Relatives, friends and neighbours crowded into the Álora cemetery to pay their last respects to the young girl. The local Town Hall declared two days of official mourning.