Beach town hits jackpot in Spain's lottery
With wide smiles, elated lottery winners popped corks on bottles of sparkling wine yesterday in the southern beach city of Roquetas de Mar, where tickets bearing the top-prize number in Spain's Christmas lottery were sold.
The winning number, 79140, appeared on 1,600 tickets in the lottery known as El Gordo (The Fat One), with each ticket holder winning €400,000 (US$434,800).
The lottery has taken on special importance in recent years as Spain struggled through a real-estate bubble and the European debt crisis. The annual December 22 event unites the country as millions watch the hours-long TV programme to find out if they are among the lucky ones.
world's richest hand out
Other lotteries have larger individual top prizes, but El Gordo is ranked as the world's richest handing out - a total of €2.2 billion (US$2.4 billion) this year.
Nearly half of the winning tickets were bought by a high school in the nearby village of Laujar de Andarax, population 1,600, where they were resold by pupils trying to raise money for a school trip.
"Nearly everyone has a ticket, or a share in one," Laujar de Andarax mayor Almudena Morales told Spain's Europa Press news agency.
"They went to workers who need it a lot," she said "And, to top it off, they were distributed by the kids."
The mayor of Roquetas de Mar called the win great news for his city in the province of Almeria, which has an unemployment rate of 31 per cent, much higher than Spain's national 21 per cent jobless rate. Smiling winners showed up at the lottery agency and cracked open the bubbly.
"I'm really happy, and I congratulate all the winners," Mayor Gabriel Amat told the Voz de Almeria newspaper. "It's very important for the town, especially in the difficult times we've been facing."