The manager of the Medusa Beach Club on Monday. | Alejandro Sepúlveda


8.18pm: When tragedy struck

It was around nine o'clock when the first reports flashed up. A building had collapsed in Playa de Palma. Several updates later, and by 11pm on Thursday, May 23 four people were confirmed dead.

There were two female German holidaymakers; ages 20 and 30. There was a Senegalese citizen, 44-year Abdoulaye Diop. He worked as a doorman at the Black Magic ciub in Playa de Palma. In 2017 he rescued a man from drowning. Palma town hall awarded him a medal of honour. Abdoulaye had stopped to have a coffee. Mariama Syll, 23, had been waiting on tables. Born in Navarre, she had spent many years in Pollensa. The town hall in Pollensa was to hold a special commemoration in her memory. There were to be minutes of silence. There were to be three days of official mourning. The floral tributes were to be laid by the wire fence that was installed in front of an establishment, the name of which had now become familiar to everyone - the Medusa Beach Club. On Monday, the manager of the establishment, who had been hauled from the rubble on Thursday night, gripped the fence as he wept before blowing kisses.

There were confused reports as to the number of injuries. It was finally established that sixteen people had been admitted to hospitals. By Monday, they had all been discharged except for one, whose condition was improving. The majority were Dutch tourists who had been on the roof terrace at the Medusa when it had given way. The roof terrace. Just as everyone had now heard of the Medusa Beach Club, so they were also aware of the roof terrace.

It was clear what had happened. A video timed at 8.18pm on Thursday evening indicated when the tragedy occurred and how. Part of the terrace had disappeared and crashed onto the ground floor. Thursday was a long night for the rescuers and the medical teams. For investigators - town hall technicians, Palma Fire Brigade, the National Police forensics squad - last Friday was an early morning, and the roof terrace was of particular interest.

An illegal terrace

The Medusa Beach Club doesn't occupy a single premises. The buildings date back to the early 1970s, and the external appearance is totally different to what it once was. On the frontline (Calle Cartago), like any other building by the sea, these are premises that suffer deterioration because of the conditions.

A town hall inspection of 2017 had detected some deficiencies, but the report said that these didn't compromise the structure. However, there was one feature for which inspectors issued a warning. The roof. Made with sandstone, it wasn't designed for heavy loads. It was solely for cover from rain for the ground floor restaurant. Because of the reports of that inspection, we now became aware of a construction term - 'non-trafficable'; there shouldn't be people on the terrace. Palma's mayor, Jaime Martínez, was to explain at a press conference on Tuesday that there had been another inspection last year. This had been "unfavourable", seemingly in reference to the terrace.

It was obvious that there had been people. Twenty-one, it was later confirmed. Twelve of the 21 were Dutch tourists seated at one table in the centre of the terrace. The load was too great. Investigators' attention had turned very quickly to checking on the status of the terrace. Had there been a licence? Given what had been stated following the 2017 inspection, this seemed implausible. And so it was. By Tuesday, technicians at the town hall had verified that there was no licence. The restaurant on the ground floor had one, as did the club in the basement - Coco Rico. But there was no licence for the roof. Not only that, as Martinez was to add. There had never been an application for a licence.

Use of the terrace was illegal. And as four people had died and sixteen people had been hospitalised, illegal use went way beyond an administrative offence for breach of planning regulations. The National Police's homicide squad was waiting for the various reports, as was a court of instruction. It was not difficult to conclude what charges could follow - four counts of manslaughter and a crime of causing injury. Separate to criminal proceedings could be the civil claims of compensation. A seven-figure sum was estimated.

The neighbours' concerns

The neighbours had been talking. One claim was that a pillar between the premises had been removed. But more than this was the talk of criminal involvement. Perhaps it was just hearsay, but it was alleged that Dutch 'businesspeople' with links to the drugs trade had been acting with impunity in the area for several years.

The veracity or otherwise of this was just one part of a story that dominated the news in a way that few other events in Mallorca have. One thinks of the Sant Llorenç tragedy of October 2018 for some comparison. Totally different events but with a commonality in hindsight - that of infrastructure. Neighbours were as concerned with the condition of other buildings in Playa de Palma. Francisco Nogales, one-time president of the Playa de Palma residents association observed: "There is much old building that has been added to without reinforcing the structure."

The town hall was likewise concerned. Inspections are being stepped up, a facet of these being materials that may have been used for work. In the case of the Medusa Beach Club, samples of material from the rubble were collected for analysis and especially testing for resistance.

Views of the neighbours will have been listened to. As with the technical reports, they will feed into providing a complete picture of what caused the tragedy. The homicide squad and the court will be considering it all, as they will be the ownership of premises that became the Medusa Beach Club in 2021, when it ceased to be a tex-mex. We will be hearing much more about the Medusa.

Rubber bullets in Palma

Riot police in Palma had to more or less be in two places at once on Monday. Around 7pm, the National Police UPR unit (prevention and reaction) was called to what is known in German as 'Schinkenstrasse' (Ham Street) in Arenal. A group of some fifty so-called football fans were on the rampage. These Alemannia Aachen 'ultras', who are said to be linked to the extreme right, had attacked a doorman at the Bamboleo bar. There was a brawl with other security personnel and significant damage was caused to the bar.

Videos captured some ugly scenes caused by individuals for whom 'ugly' would be a most appropriate adjective. Arenal has suffered because of German far right hooligans in the past. On this occasion, the police weren't taking any prisoners. They went in firing rubber bullets and dispersed the group.

Meanwhile, in the Son Gotleu district tensions were running high. There had been an accident involving a minor, which was the trigger for what became a pitched battle. On one side was an alliance of established 'locals' - Spanish gypsies, Moroccans and other Africans. On the other side were Algerians, all of them aged around 20 and who are said to have been responsible for break-ins, robberies with violence and assaults, including stabbings.

The police initially managed to calm things down but a crowd of 200 or so later blocked a street with containers and threw objects at officers. This was when the riot police acted. The alliance of locals said that they would hunt down all Algerian criminals and run them out of Son Gotleu. "Either they leave or we will kick them out." There has been a strong police presence since Monday night. On Friday afternoon there was a protest calling for the expulsion of Algerians.

Beach battles

It's doubtful that the louts in Arenal had been engaged in any sunlounger battles with other nationals. But had they been inclined to go to Cala Major, they might in any event have been deterred by the beach sunlounger prices - 70 euros a day (parasol included). It would appear that this is an 'exclusive' service, as there is a standard service for 25 euros per day, and that it has been well received. But wait, might these Alemannia Aachen sorts have been game for taking on locals who were supposedly going to 'storm' beaches (or a beach) at the weekend?

A group on social media had reacted to a Vox statement that Mallorcans can't expect to go to the beach in July and August like they did years ago. So, what exactly was this? It sounded like an anti-Vox thing rather than anti-tourist. Maybe some of the media language and references need to be toned down, as was also the case with what seemed like a bad case of road rage in Palma when a British driver's car was rammed by a Spanish driver. A UK media suggestion that this was related to anti-tourism was plain ridiculous.

Capacity reached

Overtourism and associated issues are simply unavoidable at present. And for the CEO of TUI, a German tour operator but obviously also one with a huge presence in the UK plus other countries, Mallorca and the Balearics have reached their "capacity limits". There is no more room to grow, says Sebastian Ebel, who also offered his views about the cause of overcrowding - the growth in holiday lets. Increases in housing prices, he argues, are because "many foreigners have bought properties in order to rent them out to tourists". This may have come as music to the ears of the Banc de Temps de Sencelles collective, who had called for last weekend's protest in Palma. They repeated a demand that there should be a five-year residence requirement (minimum) before being allowed to purchase a property in Mallorca.

The PP now want to ban mega-cruise ships

Yes, we all need a period of calm reflection. What with one thing or another, the mayor of Palma, Jaime Martínez, has barely had time to draw breath over the past few days. But he must have been doing some reflecting as he came out with the latest announcement by a Partido Popular politician that would have been unimaginable even a few weeks ago. He has proposed regulating, limiting or prohibiting the arrival of "certain cruise ships". By which he meant mega ships, as he only wants there to be small and medium-sized ships. The mayor also said that the town hall will ban all new holiday rental places. As the renting of apartments is already banned (but still obviously done illegally), this proposed prohibition would cover all other types of property. Vox took exception to not having been consulted, and the opposition voted against when the mayor took his proposals to the Thursday council meeting. Back to the drawing board.

Sealing off illegal lets

Where the illegal offer is concerned, the government (PP) has covered this in its 'administrative simplification' decree. Published on Tuesday, a provision of this decree will enable town halls and island councils to seal off illegal holiday lets. In practice, it would be tourism inspectors who would do the sealing-off, though the government will be amending this decree at some point to include local police force capacity to act. The opposition doubt whether this will be possible, as only a court can order a sealing-off.