Energy giant sued as power lines in Spain kill hundreds of birds

Barcelona prosecutors have filed suit against energy giant Endesa for the deaths of hundreds of birds electrocuted by its high-wire power lines, court documents show.

Energy giant sued as power lines in Spain kill hundreds of birds

According to the lawsuit, a copy of which was seen by AFP on Wednesday, prosecutors are suing the utility for offences against the environment and wildlife for failing to adequately insulate its electricity cables and pylons, creating “a death trap” for birds.

Electrocution occurs when birds touch two wires at a time or when they perch on a conductive pylon while also touching a cable.

In their complaint, prosecutors said 255 birds died in the Osona region north of Barcelona between 2018 and 2020, including protected species such as white storks, griffon vultures, short-toed eagles and buzzards.

“The electrocution and death of birds due to direct contact with the exposed conductors on pylons owned by the defendant has affected the whole province of Barcelona, constituting a veritable plague,” the complaint reads.

Contacted by AFP, Endesa was not immediately available for comment.

Experts say electrocution on power lines is a major threat to many wild birds, particularly endangered species that use pylons as perches.

(Photo by Loic VENANCE / AFP)

According to the lawsuit, Endesa had “not taken measures to repair the affected (parts) that fail to comply with the safety measures… deliberately disregarding and ignoring its legal obligations to prevent harm to wildlife and the environment”.

In August 2018, 72 white storks died over three days when a flock of 700 stopped in the area while migrating south in an incident involving 34 pylons owned by Endesa, “which had not been insulated by the company” as it was legally required to do, it said.

Despite repeated legal demands, Endesa, a subsidiary of the Italian energy giant Enel, had failed to undertake the necessary action to fix the pylons to avoid “the ongoing, evident and preventable death of birds in the Barcelona area”, it said.

According to a 2010 study by experts at Barcelona University, the most dangerous pylons are those with wires or connectors above the cross-arms that are located in habitats where there are few natural places for the birds to perch.

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Spanish woman sues for millions after learning she was switched at birth

A 19-year-old woman is seeking millions of euros in damages after it emerged that she was accidentally swapped with another newborn at a Spanish hospital nearly two decades ago.

Spanish woman sues for millions after learning she was switched at birth
Photo: Loic Venance/AFP

The babies were mixed up in 2002 after they were born five hours apart and placed in incubators at the San Millan de Logrono in northern Spain, due to a “one-off human error,” regional health authorities said.

The error was discovered four years ago after one of the girls who was switched underwent a DNA test as part of dispute over child support payments.

The woman, now 19, is demanding compensation of €3 million ($3.5 million) from health authorities for having been handed to the wrong family, her lawyer Jose Saez-Morga told AFP.

“We are talking about huge damages, which will last her whole life and which will never be repaired,” he said.

Health authorities in the Rioja region have so far only offered the woman, who prefers to remain anonymous, 215,000 euros in compensation, he added.

The regional health chief, Sara Alba, said computer systems back then did not have as many details as they do today, and stressed that a similar mix-up could not happen again.

Officials are “not aware” of any other cases at the hospital, which has since closed, she told a news conference on Tuesday.

“We have not been able to determine who is to blame for this mistake,” Alba said.

“It was a one-off human error which could not happen today. We can guarantee that this will not happen again.”

Saez-Morga said the other young woman switched at birth and her family have also undergone DNA testing.

She has also asked to remain anonymous and has so far not filed a lawsuit, he added.

According to Spanish media reports, one woman was sent to live with a couple who she believed to be her parents while the other, who has filed the lawsuit, was raised mostly by a woman she mistakenly thought was her grandmother.