Sunday, May 22

Natural disaster. At the foot of the volcano of La Palma, the inhabitants return in a landscape of ash

They had dreamed of it ever since the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano forced them to abandon their home. But the first evacuees to be able to return home since last Friday on the Spanish island of La Palma, in the Canaries, saw their joy tarnished by the apocalyptic vision of an ocean of ash covering houses and landscapes.

Local authorities have agreed to reduce the exclusion zone which still exists in certain areas affected by the volcanic eruption and which remain evacuated, considering that they meet safe conditions for the return of their inhabitants, reports the newspaper. The world.

7,000 people evacuated

Some 1,000 evacuees, out of a total of 7,000, have been allowed to return to their homes over the past week. But, for the most part, it will not be possible to settle there immediately.

Because, to the ashes which obstruct the doors and paths are added the lack of running water and the destruction of a road in the Aridane valley, which forces residents to go around the island – nearly two hours drive – for journeys that once lasted five minutes.

The island in the throes of one of the most complex crises in its history

Records of Covid-19 infections on the island, plummeting tourism, rising rental prices and skyrocketing gasoline … La Palma is facing one of the most complex crises in its history , according to the national daily ABC.

The price of rental housing rose 4.5% across the Canary Islands in 2021, with some of the areas near the Cumbre Vieja volcano being the hardest hit. Faced with the loss of housing and the increase in demand seeking a solution to the 1,345 houses destroyed by the lava, speculation is rife in neighboring municipalities like El Paso.

During the Christmas period, the island of La Palma had 36% occupancy of its hotel rooms. The situation does not look better today with an estimate for January of 29% and for February of 16%. The volcano eruption is therefore expected to have an even greater impact on the local economy than the 2020 closures linked to the Covid-19 epidemic.

A “gift from the Three Kings”

The eruption of Cumbre Vieja, which began on September 19, was officially declared over on December 25, after 10 days of inactivity. The lava destroyed more than 1,300 houses and covered 1,250 hectares of land, including banana, avocado and vineyard plantations as well as the shores of the coast when the lava sank into the ocean.

Carmen Acosta, 57, is one of the lucky few to have been able to sleep in her house on Monday night for the first time after more than three months at the hotel. It evokes a gift “from the Three Kings”, who traditionally bring gifts to children in Spain on January 6.

His house, very modest, is characteristic of this small island of the Canary archipelago: on one level, with bright blue walls, an orchard, vines that climb along the porch and a view that is lost. in the Atlantic Ocean.

Her parents, in their eighties, live with her in this little house. Tired of the return journey, they rest near bags of clothing, food and medicine that they brought back from the hotel. “We still have a lot of things to clean up. Even in six months, we will not come to the end. There is a lot of ashes, a lot of garbage … It’s horrible, ”says Carmen.

“I throw in the towel, I will devote myself to something else”

At the head of a family banana farm for 10 years, Jorge Díaz Hernández, he does not know when he will be able to find his home, like thousands of other evacuees to whom no date of return has, at this stage, been communicated.

This is the “million dollar question”, shrug the 36-year-old farmer from the top of the mountain of Las Rosas, in Los Llanos de Aridane.

During the eruption, the thirty-something regularly visited this promontory, very popular with those who wanted to observe the volcano, to check if his farm was still standing. She was ultimately spared the lava, but he estimates it would take three years to revive production. And he admits he’s had enough.

“I throw in the towel, I’m going to devote myself to something else (…) I was already exhausted by the treatment reserved for agriculture and bananas, by the prices, the water costs, all that. There, it is the drop of water that broke the camel’s back, ”he assures us. “The volcano was a spectacle within the drama, we had something. And now it’s over, ”he laments. “We were like on a cloud and now we are back to reality.”

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