Damage from a volcanic eruption is increasing on the small Canary island of La Palma. Since the volcano at Cumbre Vieja in the south of the island became active again on September 19 for the first time in 50 years, lava has already destroyed more than 1,000 buildings, of which 880 are residential homes. More than 5,500 people stayed in hotels or with relatives on Sunday.
Many of them will not be able to return to their homes and villages – these are buried under a meter thick layer of lava. And massive crop failures on plantations of bananas, the island’s most important produce, add to the bitter balance of the first two weeks. “Here you can see a lot of people crying all the time,” an older man told RTVE.
The end of the eruption, which had already released 80 million cubic meters of lava, and thus twice that of 50 years ago, was not in sight. The head of the regional government, Angel Victor Torres, complained that “never before in the known history of the island have there been such difficulties”. The newspaper “La Vanguardia” quoted him as saying that the avocado farmer took the matter calmly: “No Palma is a volcanic region. What the volcano takes from you brings you back.”
There was also reason to sigh. As air quality improved, the curfew was lifted for about 3,800 residents of directly affected areas such as Los Llanos, Tazacorte and El Paso, and they were allowed to leave their homes for the first time in days. The northeast wind pushed most of the fumes out to sea.
However, only a few benefited from it due to the gray rain, as La Vanguardia reported. In fact, it is not about ash, but rather small fragments of cold magma that the volcano has thrown into the air and can be felt on the skin like tiny pin pricks. They are odorless and covered in a black coating, and when you walk they make a grinding noise as if you were walking on potato chips, as can be seen and heard in the videos.
A new chimney opened Saturday at the volcano in the Cumbre Vieja mountain range. Currently, there are no indications that areas previously spared from pyroclastic flows are at risk, the Canary Islands Volcanic Institute (Involcan) said. The lava, solidified by sea water, formed a small peninsula of about 30 hectares on the western coast of the island.
According to the European Copernicus Earth Observation System, a black layer of lava with a thickness of one meter covers 367 hectares. According to the latest official information, more than 3,300 hectares were affected by dark ash rain. This corresponds to an area of approximately 4,500 football fields.
La Palma, less popular with tourists than other Canary Islands such as Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura or Lanzarote, was declared a disaster area on Tuesday. According to estimates by the regional government, the damage already amounts to several hundred million euros. Banana cultivation, which is so important to the island that about half of the population of about 85,000 live directly or indirectly and which was already in crisis before the volcanic eruption, is particularly hard hit. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced on Sunday that they will provide 200 million euros to aid La Palma.
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