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Discovering a new life in Costa Almeria

Having made the decision that full time work really is bad for your health,my husband convinced me that we should get 2 puppies and retire early. What I hadn't anticipated was that retirement would see us in Almeria, in southern Spain. This is our story from making the decision to move to our life here. For more posts read the full blog at http://relocatetospain.blogspot.com. What I hadn't realised was that I wasn't ready to retire so after 2 years we are back in the UK. However, when I am finally ready to retire - Spain is still in the mix.

No New Year Resolutions
01 January 2011

Sitting last night chatting about what's happened in 2010, it seems very little of it would have been in the conversation last New Year's Eve about the coming year.

We were in our renovated house, high in the Spanish mountains living a life of solitude and retirement with the pups. Although I was unsettled, I never could have imagined that I would be seeing this New Year in, back in England, among my family and friends.

So, I am reluctant to speculate on what 2011 will hold for us. However, I think it is important to have dreams of what we would like to happen. Without these dreams, you do not have goals. Without goals, you do not make plans. And without plans - you do nothing but let life pass you by.

I do not want to be sitting here this time in 2012 and be looking back on a year without fulfilling some of the dreams and so, this year I am not making any New Year resolutions which will have been forgotten in 2 weeks. This year I am making a list of dreams. Some that we will be able to achieve this year, some that will take longer to achieve but at least will be past the dream stage and into the planning stage.

I want 2012 to be a year when some dreams were fulfilled rather than the year when resolutions were broken.

I hope you all have a wonderful 2012 with your family and friends, wherever you and they may be



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Unwanted Visitors.
05 May 2010

A couple of nights ago, we had a fabulous clear sky and a million stars twinkling, so I was tempted to sit outside for a while and gaze. People keep telling me how many shooting stars we see up here because of the clarity of the skies due to the absence of any street lights, house lights and any other type of lights, but so far I haven't seen any. Maybe if I sat for a while I would see my first.

As I sat I became aware of a scratching noise close by. I know we have mice living near the house and they don't worry me so I started to listen closely to see whether I could work out where they were.

As my hearing focused in, I realised that the scratching was coming from inside the bonnet of my car! Now, I have a pact with the mice, the same as I do with spiders: I don't have a problem with them PROVIDING they remain outside the house. That ruling stretches to include my car.

I called to Neil to come and listen, just to make sure I was hearing right, and he agreed - the noises were definitely coming from under the bonnet.

I ran over to the car and hammered on the bonnet making enough noise to wake the dead in the hope I would frighten the mice away. As we listened, the scratching stopped but the entire valley was suddenly filled by every dog in the area howling and barking at this sudden noise that had woken them all from their slumbers.

We waited a little longer and still heard no more scratching so I started the car up and moved him away from the front of the house, where there are mouse holes.

The following morning I went down to our local store that sells fertilisers, poisons etc and explained in my best Spanish that I had mice that were eating my car. I expected a response, but not the one I got. 'Claro! Vives en el Campo'. Of course, you live in the Campo.

What I thought to be an unusual event turns out to be perfectly normal and well known by most people, just not us. They are known for nibbling through cables and can lead to some very expensive repairs. He showed me some pale blue tablets and told me I needed to put several under the bonnet in nooks and crannies where they wouldn't fall out and the mice would nibble them and, then he stopped talking and simply stroked his finger across his throat signifying my mouse problem would be no more.

Back at the house we did as instructed and also pushed a tablet down each of the mouse holes in the hope that we could combat the attack.

2 days later we took our big car in for a service, only to be told that the mice had been in there too, but so far only nibbled at items of insulation rather than cables or other rather important items. So, having put more blue tablets around the engine we hope we have controlled the situation and will make sure to check the tablets from time to time and replace as necessary.

Whatever next?



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Hard Hat Required.
01 May 2010

Any ex-pat living in Spain will tell you that the 'Health & Safety' measures in the UK are seriously missing here in Spain. The more rural you get, the further they get from any H&S manual.

And so, H&S on a home building site is pretty much non-existent and it's easy to fall into the same mind set.

We're doing fencing. We're not up ladders. We're not using sharp tools. We're just doing fencing.

So why am I typing this whilst wearing some very fetching new head gear?

Well,

Before we totally enclose the paddock (as I refer to it) we needed to shift about 50 large plastic drainage pipes which have been left here since the house was built, someone really over-ordered! The plan was to put 2 large metal posts at the bottom of the next hill and stack these pipes between the hill and the posts. If we moved them now, we could just roll them down the hill, in another couple of days we would be man-handling 4 metres of drainpipe through a single gate while balancing on a steep slope. Moving them today seemed like a good idea.

The pipes haven't moved for almost 2 years so we knew there would be 'things' living in them and we would be about to evict some very cross little animals, especially as we would be working through the day and many of them could be nocturnal.

Once we had donned big boots and large gloves we set about making as much noise on the drainpipes as we could with a big stick to try and scare whatever was in them, out.

Then we began moving them. There was trails of debris falling out of the pipes as they were dragged across the lumps and bumps of the paddock, left from previous years ploughing. Bits of old straw nests, empty almond nut shells and the occasional signs of animal droppings.

After we were about halfway through moving them, I suddenly saw my first evictee, a lovely little bunny. He scampered out of the end of one of the pipes and up the hill into the overgrown Cacti near the ruined 'Nave'. I left him to settle and carried on moving the pipes when suddenly, Neil called to say we needed a longer post at one end, the stack of pipes had reached the top. As I walked over to see, I suddenly saw the whole pile of drainpipes break free from their restraints and cascade down the hill, thankfully to be trapped on the trunks of Almond trees growing on the lower level.

I shall not repeat the words that came forth from my husband's mouth, but it was clear that he was not happy!

That was the start of a day, destined to get worse.

We climbed back up to the house where all the building 'stuff' is stored and chose some longer metal posts to use for storing the drainpipes. Posts and hammer in hand, we set off to repeat the mornings work.

As these posts were 2 metres long, Neil had to climb up the hill to be able to hammer them in, so he asked me to hold the posts in place while he clambered up a near vertical slope, bits of loose rock, plant debris and the remnants of last years fallen almonds showering down on top of me. It should have been a warning.

He started to hammer in the first post with the lump hammer, and I could see the line on the post where we had marked how deep it needed to go, getting nearer and nearer to the ground, when all of a sudden.............

....... my hands left the post and flew to hold the top of my head. Wow, it hurt. I clung on to my head, screaming in pain. Neil flew down the hillside to me, shouting for me to keep still.

He reached me in seconds and threw his arms round me. He lifted my hands and uttered a few words, ' Keep your hands pressed on hard, back to the house, quick. It's bleeding'. The head of the lump hammer had come off the handle and hit me on the head!

Of course it was bleeding!

He almost had to push me up the 2 steep slopes to the house. The dogs had heard my screams and come down to see what was wrong, but I didn't have time to stop. By the time I got halfway up I couldn't breath. It appears I cannot scream, sob and breath ALL at the same time.

Eventually, we got back to the house and Neil went into action mode. Towels, ice pack and a glass of water with painkiller were brought and I allowed him to remove my hands to review the damage. Practical thoughts ran through my head. We have no phone at the house because of the satellite mess up and the mobile phones don't work here. Our neighbour was in the UK so we had no-one nearby to call. Our health cover ran out last month and I haven't sorted anything out yet because in 2 years neither if us has needed a doctor. Meanwhile Neil was sorting out my new headgear. A damp cloth, an ice pack and a pretty scarf to hold it all in place.

Gradually, I calmed down. Although the hammer head was heavy (1kg of steel) I knew it had only caught me a glancing blow, it could have been a lot worse. Neil asked if I wanted to go to hospital but I said not, I wanted to wait a little while to see if the bleeding would stop and we could see how bad the cut was. I wanted to be left to sit quietly for a while.

Neil was shaken up by what had happened, even though it was an accident, he felt responsible. Now I was sat quietly, he didn't have anything to do, the panic set in. I told him I was fine and just needed a few minutes.

10 minutes later we removed the ice pack and could see that I had been very lucky, if such a phrase could be applied to being hit on the head with a lump hammer! It hadn't cut my head, more grazed it and the bleeding had almost stopped although by now, my hair was thick and matted with blood. I put the ice and towel back on my head and rested my head back against the chair while Neil removed my boots - there would be no more work today.

Several hours later, I am perfectly fine. I managed to hang my head upside down in the shower and run lots of warm water over my hair to remove the blood. I doubt I will be able to brush my hair properly for a few days as the top of my head is very sore to touch, but otherwise is fine. The lump hammer will be repaired for future use and I have added 'Hard Hat' to my shopping list. I know I had a very lucky escape and it could have been so much worse.

I am now hoping that when I go back to the paddock today, the fairies have been and stacked all the drainpipes away, but somehow I think my luck will fall short of that happening.



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Our new gadget.
09 March 2010

Bad weather in Spain has consequences not normally experienced in the UK. It doesn't have to be extreme weather - just a heavy downpour, high winds or even heavy cloud which is low enough to cover us. As well as the direct effect of the weather, a lot of rain or a howling gal, the main indirect effect is thay we can lose our TV signal, and the bad weather doesn't even have to be over us, it can be anywhere between us and the UK, and we don't regain the signal until the weather passes. The other indirect effect is loss of power. This happens more often with heavy rain or snow and normally there will be a series of very short power cuts but can often last several hours.

It was always our intention to buy a generator as a back up power supply and with this in mind Neil and the electrician had installed a socket in the utility room where we could simply plug the generator in to run the lights and sockets in the house if we had a power cut for any length of time. This would make sure that we didn't have to worry about the freezers defrosting (we have 2, one in the kitchen and a second in the utility for when we are snowed in), so that we have heating through the winter and also lights for night time power cuts and of course, power to the sockets also means we continue to have the phone, internet and TV.

Neil had calculated that we needed a 3kw genny and we started to look around for one just last week. There is the usual concerns about where to buy them. We could get them cheaper from the UK than in Spain but that raises issues over the warranty, should anything go wrong. We can buy them from the internet in Spain but again, should anything go wrong it is more difficult to get it sorted dealing with companies over the phone. I know this from personal experience as I am still trying to get the phone we bought replaced because the slave handset doesn't work. This has been going on for 6 weeks and we still haven't got the replacement.

We then managed to find one in a local hardware store that fitted the bill and the budget, so after a couple of days thinking about it, last Thursday we finally decided to bite the bullet and buy it. The owner of the store asked us to call back the following day so that he had time to test that it worked ok and we finally went back on Saturday to collect it.

One of the things I still find amazing here is that they never seem to want to take your money. Having called at the store he told us we needed to drive to the other side of the Poligono to his warehouse where he had been testing it. I expected we would have to pay before we collected it - but no, they wouldn't take my money until after we had checked that it worked ok. After loading it into the back of the car we drove back to the shop so we could pay for it but it did make me wonder whether such a system would work in the UK without having to leave proof of your name, address, phone number and car details.
 

Anyway, genny paid for we called at the petrol station for a can of petrol and brought it home. Neil sorted it out with a cable and plug and started it up and it chugged away nicely. As our electric supply is from the little casita on the hill, about 400m over muddy, hilly terrain, we decided we would try plugging it into the house on Sunday morning so that if it tripped the fuse we could walk up to the casita to reset it in daylight.

Of course, Sunday morning dawned and we completely forgot to test the genny into the house supply...........

until 3.30pm..............

when the power went off and didn't come back on!

There was nothing to lose. We turned off the main fuse and all the individual fuses to the lights, sockets, cooker, hot tub and went and plugged in genny. Then we fired her up and turned on the fuse to the lights. In excited anticipation we turned on the hall light switch.........

and there was light.

We turned on the fuse to the sockets and all the lights on the computer servers lit up. We had power. Now we just had one problem, how would we know when the mains power was back on?

The only way is to turn the genny off every half hour and see. We don't overlook any other houses, we cannot see the town and there are no street lights in view so there is no way of knowing when the power is back on other than to try it.

Looks like we need a contraption to tell us when we have power again, but at least future powercuts will be less stressful, if a little noisier.



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Finally, no more changing gas bottles before showering.
26 February 2010

A recap.

We decided to live in a house in the countryside 3,000 metres up a mountain. It gets cold in the winter, there is snow in the winter which is deep enough to stop us getting the car out for days at a time. We decided we would put gas central heating in running on propane from a tank as we are way too far away from any mains supply of gas. Natural piped gas is not common in this part of Spain although highly populated areas are beginning to get piped supply.

We only knew of one supplier of bottled gas, Repsol, and so spoke with them about the supply. Their tanks were massive so we would need to run off the tall bottles and were recommended to have 8 bottles and run 4 on/4 off. We weren't keen as this would look unattractive at the back of the house but, any less would mean the bottles needed changing too often and if the track was difficult to access because of snow we could run out of gas and have no heating or cooking.

In conversation with Manolo at the plumbers merchant he told us about another supplier Cespa, who did a smaller tank than Repsol, suitable for domestic use. 1,000 litres which should last for months and certainly see us through the winter months without difficulty. The tank is quite cute, if a fuel tank can be cute and it seemed perfect for our needs. Refills would be 3-4 days from order, which is a simple phone call. While we were waiting for the tank we could run the system with 4 small bottles, 2 on/2 off.

We started the process in mid-November and we received the signed contract from Cespa dated 26th November. We were given a timescale of 3 weeks for the tank to be delivered and a further 3-4 days for it to be filled up. With any luck it would all be set-up by Christmas and we wouldn't have to worry about fuel throughout the winter.

But, this is Spain. Timescales can stretch out quite a while.

The timescale for our tank has stetched way beyond expectations. In Spain you learn to be patient but this has certanly tested our patience to the limit.

The tank is manufactured in Portugal as it is cheaper than if it was made in Spain. At Christmas when we asked,it was only just in production, should be shipped early January. We had one fall of snow where we were snowed in for 3 days and on day 4 we had no choice but to dig our way out as our bottles were empty. The bottles only lasted for 4 days in really cold weather when we needed the heating on 24/7. When you run on LPG there is always a residual amount left in the bottles, normally 10% but in cold weather it can be as much as 15% - this means when you need the most get you get the least! The outside temperature affects the amount of usable gas. It also means you are paying for gas you can't actually use. Each change of bottle was costing us €10 so it is not a cost effective way of running a heating system, but it was meant to only be for a 4-5 weeks!

But this is Spain. Finally, after almost 10 weeks the tank arrived. We were told it would take about a week for the first fill and after that it would be 3-4 days for a refill from when we telephoned an order through. We were so excited.
 

The excitement didn't last long.

We waited for it to be filled. In the meantime we had more snow, we couldn't get out for 3 days. This time we ran out of gas on day 4, but we stayed warm through the snow. A week passed and then a second. We started calling into the shop every week for an update. Every week was the same, the paperwork is stuck in the system. We cannot get the tank filled until the paperwork is sorted.

Last Friday we finally had a call to say the tanker was coming to fill us up. We knew better than to get excited this time.

It didn't arrive.

I rang to ask why and it seems they sent the big tanker (like you see deliver fuel to petrol stations) and he was worried that the slope on our track was too much and, having got down to the house, he wouldn't be able to get back up to the tarmac road.

They needed to send the smaller tanker which has to come from further away, so doesn't come to the area every day. It would be here Tuesday or Wednesday.

It didn't come.

This morning we got a phone call. The little tanker was coming.

AND IT DID!!!!!!!!!

We now have a full tank of LPG,well 85% full - that's the maximum they can fill it. It should last us several months. We don't have to change bottles anymore.

Now, we are very excited. We're going out to celebrate tonight.

We're going to town for a PIzza!
 



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The WInds of Change.
24 February 2010

It's howling around the house tonight, gales of 45km an hour. It's been howling for several hours and is expected to continue for many more.

It's great for drying the bedding although I make sure everything is double pegged or it will end up dry but halfway down the Rambla.

As I walk round the corner of the house I am stopped in my tracks by the wind. The occasional lull allows me to continue. Even the dogs, as small as they are, struggle to walk far.

I remember last year we had strong winds in February, there were several times we didn't get to play golf because it was too windy.

It seemed to blow away winter and blow in summer, maybe this is what happens here and, once again, summer is just around the corner.

If only the wind would drop enough to let me walk around the corner!



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Carnival Time
07 February 2010

Tonight, 6 of us sat around a rough, wooden table in a small, local bar with a bottle of the house red and the smallest wine glasses you've ever seen. There were a couple of elderly gentleman sat at the bar, nursing cold beers and at another table were a group of young women, catching up on all the news from the last few days over a few drinks, surrounded by a cloud of cigarette smoke, as smoking is still allowed in bars here.

Nothing untowards about any of this. A normal Saturday night in a small, Spanish town.

Except this wasn't a normal night. This was Carnival night.

So at the far end of the bar, served a couple of beers by the barman, sat 2 clowns. Full, brightly coloured costumes, funny wigs & hats and more make-up than you would find at the Revlon counter in any branch of 'Boots'.

I wish I'd had the nerve to ask them for a photo - it looked so bizarre and yet no-one even took a second glance. Beer glasses drained, they once more attached their bright, red noses and went out to join the rest of the parade.


 


We followed them outside the bar as we could hear music playing and the street was filled with chefs with rather large, fake stomachs protruding from rather short jackets.




There was a whole crowd of kids dresed in 'hippy' clothes from the 60's


And they had the most brilliant car that about a dozen of them were carrying around.
 
 

There were people in medieval costumes and and group of ladies with red feather boa's and fishnet tights - I think they were all supposed to be Charlston Girls, but the fact they all had big, outdoor, winter coats on rather spoilt the effect.


 

Velez Blanco is a small town and there were not many people standing on the street corners to watch as the parade passed by as most of them were in it, but they seemed to be enjoying themselves, and we certainly enjoyed watching them in all their finery. It was a short parade, it only took a few minutes to pass us by. No where near the scale of the Carnival Parades that will take place in Aguilas in the next couple of weeks, but it was fun.

But, how I wished I'd taken a photo of the clowns sat drinking in the bar!

Hey, Ho. Maybe next year!

 

 


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Now we know what it's been like in the UK!
27 January 2010

At 6am each morning Brinkley wakes me to go out. Now, it's normally still pitch black at 6am, so I open the front door just wide enough for him to get through and while he's out I make a coffee to take back to bed. Brinkley will paw at the door to get back in, and I again open it just wide enough to let him in and to keep out the cold weather and we all go back to bed for another couple of hours.

Yesterday morning when I let him back in - he was covered in snow. Now, this wasn't forecast. Heavy rain was forecast with snow above 1500m (we're at 1000m). After towelling him dry I peeked out of the door to see a light covering of snow on the car, pretty much like previous occasions, so I closed the door and went back to bed.
 
 
 


A couple of hours later, I knew we had a fair amount of snow as the tv signal started to break up on ITV, indicating the satellite dish was probably filling up with snow. Neil very chivalrously offered to don big boots and dressing gown and went up onto the roof terrace to clear the dish.

That was when we realised this was not snow like before. This was snow of mega-proportions. This was 'snowed in for the day' snow. It was 6 inches deep and still falling. We decided we would go back to bed for another hour as we wouldn't be going anywhere today.

By 10am the snow was over 8 inches deep, the dogs were struggling to walk through it and were jumping like tiny deer. Brandy was desperately looking for somewhere to pee, but the snow was upto his willie and he couldn't work out what to do!



We both decided to shower and then have breakfast and literally, as the last egg was finishing cooking - the power went off, then came back on, then went off again. After a few more on-off moments, it went off for good.

We kicked the calor gas fire into action to keep the house warm, and as we have a gas hob which doesn't require electric we were alright for cooking.

We decided to clear a little of the snow away to make an area that the dogs could walk and do what they needed to do, with out the snow freezing their little what'sits off, and then, as we still had no power, out came the cards and dominoes.

One thing about living close to your neighbour is that you can always check if their power is on/off too, or if it's just you. Here, well, we have a real hike to our neighbours through deep snow but with no electric, no phone, there was little alternative. So, at mid-day we got all our waterproof golfing gear out and started the trek up the hill.

By now it had started to warm up a little and the snow had turned to rain. I was so tempted to turn back, it was really difficult to walk uphill through snow which at times was upto our knees as it had drifted. The rain was heavy and blowing into our faces, but we decided to continue. We had plenty off layers on, we were in waterproofs and it had taken about half an hour to get dressed to leave the house - we were going to continue!

I have to say, if I thought the walk to the ruin on Sunday was hard work, it was a stroll in the park compared to walking through deep, fresh snow! We took several short rests on the way up but we finally made it. To say Janet & Graham were amazed is an understatement of enormous proportions. We happened to arrive just as Janet was making some Cola Cao (hot chocolate) and it was so welcome, especially after she offered to add some Brandy.

We stayed for a couple of hours and began to put all our waterproofs on again for the trek home. The whole valley looked wonderful and the walk home was easier as, in the main, it was down hill.
 
 
 
It was still raining and the snow was thawing rapidly. Whether it will all go before the temperature drops again tonight is anyone's guess. We are due some more rain overnight, but the snow level has been changed to 800m so if it does rain, we will get it as snow.

After 7 hours the power finally came back on, but we kept a candle lit for the rest of the evening..........just incase!
 
 
Now, be honest, how many of you though Southern Spain and Snow went together? Well, there are ski resorts around Granada - it's not all about sea & sun!
 


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What's on this summer in San Juan de los Terreros?
17 July 2009

Terreros may be a quiet place outside the holiday season but there is certainly lots to do during July & August. The first thing to do when you are visiting is to go to our information kiosk near to La Venta (it's a wooden hut near the roundabout).


Here they have lots of information booklets on the area but the key booklet to get is this one.
 
 
 
 
It lists all the events that are taking place in Terreros during July & August. If we look at the page for today, there is a dancing exhibition on the Paseo Marítimo at 22.00 (yes, a lot takes place late at night because of the heat during the day), there's Yoga at 18.00 in the Cultural Centre and children's basketball in the court on the Paseo.
 
 
There's a few concerts up at the Castle during the summer, including one this Sunday and this Saturday there is the Romería Virgen del Carmen, who is the patron saint of fishermen (romería = picnic & procession) starting at 21.00.
 
 
Last year during August there was also a large notice board on the Paseo listing all the events for the month - and there was a lot to do.
 
 
Keep an eye open for noticed by the Supermarkets and in the bars as these will give you additional information on events that are taking place.
 
 
And enjoy summer in Terreros.


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Lightening starts fire in Cabrera.
15 July 2009

Last night we were aware of a lot of 'muck' appearing on the lounge floor - and I blamed the dogs for bringing it in. However, it appears they were not the cause, it was actually ash from a forest fire some 30 minutes away over Cabrera, thought to have been caused by a lightening strike. People have been evacuated and homes have been burnt, although I don't know how badly. This is near to the popular towns of Mojacar and Turre, and hopefully there have been no injuries. A massive fire-fighting force was in use and this morning the fire is mostly out.

The following is taken from: http://www.davidjackson.info/

Infoca, the forest fire people, say that the probable cause of the fire was a lightening strike from the storms we had yesterday.

While Almeria city and Albox suffered intermittent showers throughout the day, the Levante just had a dry thunderstorm, steady winds and temperatures of up to 40ºC.

Canal Sur says that 300 houses in the mountains have been evacuated so far.
The fire started in Cerro de la Mezquita and has spread rapidly. 53 fire units have been assigned so far, as well as two amphibian aircraft, three normal planes, an overall command plane, four helicopters and two large capacity helicopters.


The main bulk of the fire is out, although it is still burning away up in the mountains.
The
Guardia are still not letting anyone up into Cortijo Grande, although the Turre – Los Gallardos road has reopened.

Over 2,000 heactacres (20 square km) was burnt, according to media reports. It has been confirmed by an eyewitness that Finca Listonero was burnt, along with a number of cortijos close by. El
Almeria newspaper says that around 20 cortijos were destroyed.

The flames did come down very close to Turre, and several fire breaks were made by the army just outside the town.


The fire reached a level 2, and a battalion of troops (around 120) were deployed to the area overnight to protect Turre and
Mojacar, along with heavy earth moving equipment.


While the troops have been stood down, local media report that aerial units are still trying to extinguish the fires blazing up in the mountains



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