The volcano has been controlling their day and night lives for two months now. During the day, the residents of La Palma remove the ash. At night they sometimes feel an earthquake and hear the roar of Cumbre Vega. Canary Island longs for the day the beast rests.
Small group of goats loudly blasting behind a fence in a black landscape. They seem hungry. In the 10-centimeter layer of ash from the volcano, which constantly throws black clouds high into the sky about 3 kilometers beyond, there are no fresh traces of footsteps or car tires. Goats are smeared too, like everything on the western side of the Spanish island of La Palma. There is no escape from the ash, which these days the harsh northeast trade winds sweep across the plain like a sandstorm from the volcanic hills.
Road workers are constantly vacating jobs, and it’s a hopeless job. Same for the people at home. “Every hour I clean the shop floor, every day,” sighs the owner of a stationery shop in the center of Los Llanos de Aridan. “But luckily I still have something to clear up. Not many others have returned.”
For nearly two months now, Cumbre Vieja has controlled the small Canary Island and much of its 83,000 residents in an iron fist since it was unable to withstand the pressure of magma from the Earth’s core on September 19. There is little time or opportunity to work on reconstruction – as long as the volcano has not subsided, there is little to be done. Geologists are cautiously optimistic that earthquakes and emissions of harmful gases have declined in recent days. But they did not dare to predict anything. It is by no means the first eruption of the La Palma volcano, but it is the most turbulent.
Ines Maria Tome, 62, stands at a bus stop in El Paso municipality, where the inevitable plumes of smoke loom. She came here from Cuba three years ago. “In Cuba we have hurricanes almost every year. They come in, destroy everything in a few hours, but they leave quickly, so you can start to recover. This is different, heavier. It never ends.”
The people of La Palma, which is less of a tourist attraction than the larger neighboring islands, used to live in a volcano. Older people have already experienced two explosions, in 1947 and 1971. But this is different, they say. Lava flows are now causing more damage, especially as the land splits slightly to the north, in a densely built area. About 2,000 people lost their homes or businesses, and 7,000 residents were evacuated from the area exclusion zoneAlthough their homes are still standing there intact. The government does not want to risk.
People, accompanied by a civil defense personnel, are sometimes allowed to go into their homes to feed livestock, to remove the thick growing layer of ash from flat roofs or to get things they need.
Raquel Martin, 80, and Eladio Rodriguez, 84, visited their abandoned home in La Laguna with their daughter Marie. They’ve been staying at the Valle Aridane for weeks, with nearly all 44 rooms reserved by the government for people who have lost their homes or been evacuated. “It’s very challenging,” Raquel says. “In the house we have the space, our garden, all our things. Here we are in a small room with two beds and nothing more. We are very well taken care of, breakfast is delivered every day and we are allowed to eat for free in some restaurants in the afternoon and evening. But this Too tired, in our time.”
“My dad is getting more and more confused every day. But what can we do?” He asks his daughter Mary. “You can’t fight nature.”
The government in Madrid promised nearly 300 million euros to compensate for the consequences of the eruption. The first tens of millions will go into a program to provide housing for the people most affected. The first eighteen will be delivered soon.
About two hundred other victims are staying in a more luxurious hotel at the southern end of La Palma. But for many, this is a hindrance, as lava has flooded all the roads from there to Los Llanos, the central city of the Great Plain. Now they have to travel along the east coast, where it takes three times as long instead of half an hour – a mountain pass more than 1,000 meters has to be overcome by a winding road.
At the entrance to the Villa Aridane is a woman carrying a shopping bag. Yes, she lost her home, she nodded. “But I can’t talk about it and then it becomes too much for me,” she apologizes.
Dutch Karel and Marja Brummer look a little more realistic, although they really have lost everything: their home, plus two vacation homes they rented, on their 6000 square meter plot of land in El Paraíso. This means “heaven” and was the first to be buried by powerful, meter-high lava, a few days after the eruption.
“We were briefly in the Netherlands for a wedding when the explosion happened. We had been warned about this for weeks, so we handed a box of documents to friends, but then we thought: What an exaggeration,” the couple say. Guests who were in one of the houses at that time ran away after the explosion, leaving almost everything behind.
Karel and Marja Brommel flew straight to La Palma, where they settled in 2018. “Don’t think for a moment that such a volcanic eruption could come. And then very violently. Also Palmiros They themselves are very surprised, this is really a different arrangement from previous outbreaks.”
They are now staying at a friend’s house just outside the closed area. Insurance has already paid them because the government has described the eruption as a national disaster. “We would like to stay in La Palma, and create something new,” Karel says. “But there is very little available here, and it is very expensive. It is now suddenly less habitable.”
When the volcano finally stops releasing lava, it may take at least a year before it cools down and even longer before building begins again on the then very fertile soil. Because in addition to housing, many banana plantations have also lost, La Palma’s export product. Temporarily damages to the sector are estimated at 100 million euros.
And although tourism is less important to the economy of the island, travelers will be missed. Travel to La Palma is uncertain; Depending on the wind, planes may or may not land there. Daily tourism started after the eruption of the volcano. For 120 euros, tourists sail back and forth from Tenerife and get a ride that culminates in a view of the volcano at the Taguia Church, which has become the main point.
Anna, Maria Jesus and Natalia of Madrid, who stands with dozens in the square in front of the church, says they are all wearing mouth masks and glasses to protect against the ash attack. Tours are fully booked for weeks. Rosie Perez is so happy. She’s the guide and she doesn’t think it’s “disaster tourism”. “I was out of work for the first few weeks after the explosion, so this works for me. As long as people are respectful and understand our situation.”