Underground cave complex threatens to swallow Spanish town

LOCATED 33 km southwest of Madrid, Navalcarnero is a small town with a big problem –a poorly constructed network of caves that lurks beneath the community. 

The picturesque town made the headlines during the week of January 11 when the paving in a square gave way to reveal a three-meter-deep hole beneath. 

The president of the local residents´ association, Juan Benito, confirmed that this is not the first hole to appear in the town and that the council has been using sand to fill them, resulting in the roof of the tunnel network finally caving in.  

The current major, Jose Luis Adell was quick to blame his predecessor, Baltasar Santos who is alleged to have improperly commissioned the building of the subterranean tunnels without first consulting geologists and obtaining the appropriate permissions.

Underground cellars have been used for centuries by the farmers and producers of Navalcarnero, for storing wine, olive oil and other perishables, and it is thought that Major Santos wanted to develop the original caves to make a tourist attraction. 

Work began in 2004 and continued to 2011 when developers were ordered to cease by the courts after a complaint was made by the PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers Party). Despite the court order, the work continued in secret, until Baltasar Santos was replaced after local elections in May 2015. 

The ill-fated project, which cost somewhere in the region of €200 million, is said to have caused havoc to gas, electric, water and sewerage systems beneath the town, with the present mayor claiming it will “cost millions to put things right.” 

Baltasar Santos, of the Popular Party, is facing corruption charges, including abuse of authority and misuse of public money. 

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