It was on December 25 when the Volcanic Emergency Plan for the Canary Islands (Pevolca) gave the best of Christmas gifts to all the islanders: it put an end to the most devastating eruption since they have records in La Palma, that of the volcano Nameless that exploded in the area of Cabeza de Vaca, in Cumbre Vieja, on September 19. When a month has passed since that chapter change, what is known as the beautiful island is immersed in its reconstruction phase, with its sights set, essentially, on the recovery of the main roads, the removal of volcanic ash, the measurements of temperatures in the still burning ground, the study on the evolution of degassing and the return to the homes of the evacuees. In short, the return to a new “normality”.
The challenge of rebuilding La Palma without condemning it to mass tourism
Despite everything, the island is still on alert, with the traffic light red, now due to the emission of gases and the existence of exclusion zones, indicates the Cabildo de La Palma.
On this important date, the National Geographic Institute (IGN) has prepared a complete chronology in which the milestones of the volcano that devastated thousands of hectares and buried more than 2,000 buildings, most of them homes in the Aridane Valley, are reviewed. “From the IGN we continue in La Palma working on the tasks of volcanic surveillance of Cumbre Vieja”, the experts shared on their social networks.
messages of encouragement
In this month of reconstruction, unexpected events have taken place, which have given strength and encouragement to all those affected by the eruption, such as the message sent by Pope Francis, which surprised the palmeros. “It must be very hard to see that your house, your little field is covered with ashes and you have to escape to save your life and what you can. I accompanied them in those moments and I continue to accompany them now in the reconstruction,” the pontiff said in a video.
There was also an emotional tribute written in the sky of El Paso to those affected by the volcano by fifty drones that drew the words ‘Force’ and ‘La Palma’, along with a silhouette of the Island, to pay tribute to the people who the eruption of Cumbre Vieja snatched houses and lands. The fifty drones that starred in the show Atom they were synchronized by a computer application and drew figures up to 100 meters high.
On January 8, there was also a very exciting moment thanks to the macro-concert Stronger than the volcano, a great charity event that took place at the WiZink Center (Madrid) and in which artists of the stature of Raphael, Pasillo Effect, Fangoria, Serrat, Kiko Veneno, Love of Lesbian, Pedro Guerra or Valeria the palm tree did their best to raise funds for affection. It was a marathon of the best music made in Spain that could be enjoyed thanks to RTVE and that filled the canaries with hope.
But if there has been a message of optimism in these first days, that is the one that nature itself has sent: since the end of the eruption was announced, the regrowth of several Canarian pine trees affected by the lava flows and ashes has been reported.
Recovery of roads and buildings
The recovery of communications has become the main objective for public bodies: town halls, council and the Government of Spain, as far as works are concerned. “If we do not recover the road infrastructure, normality will not be recovered in La Palma, that is why it is essential that all administrations coordinate, as we are doing, to start designing the reconstruction of the roads affected by the volcano,” said the councilor and Public Works, Transport and Housing of the Government of the Canary Islands, Sebastián Franquis. And that is what they have been using in the last 31 days, an effort that is beginning to bear fruit.
It was last January 17 when the new road that will connect the coastal area of Puerto Naos and La Bombilla with Las Manchas de Abajo and from there with the rest of the Island through the LP was finally opened. -two. The Ministry has carried out this work urgently after the volcanic eruption devastated the usual road connection with the northern part of Los Llanos de Aridane through the LP-213.
It is not the only work. On the 20th, for example, the Department of Infrastructures of the Cabildo de La Palma began the recovery works on the San Isidro road, in the municipality of Villa and Puerto de Tazacorte, to enable access to banana crops and some forty houses that They were cut off at the time by the lava flows from the volcano. This intervention will consist of opening a road 200 meters above the lava flows to allow provisional access to the areas that today are isolated
Also in this first month of reconstruction, the Governing Council has approved a regional decree law that adopts urgent measures in urban matters to repair the damage caused by the eruption, so that people who have lost their homes can proceed to the reconstruction of others. The document has the agreement of the three municipalities affected: Los Llanos de Aridane, El Paso and Tazacorte, in addition to the Cabildo Insular de La Palma. This regulation has as its ultimate objective the reconstruction of real estate destined for housing and also its rehabilitation, a fundamental step to be able to advance in the reconstruction of the affected neighborhoods.
The removal of volcanic ash and the return home
The return home of palm trees evicted by the volcano has also become a priority in this first phase of reconstruction. Previously, civil protection agents and experts have gone house to house evaluating whether the return is already suitable.
These days, images of joy at being reunited with home are frequent in the media, images that contrast with those that were broadcast at the beginning of the eruption, when everything was anguish and sadness.
There are thousands of neighbors who have already been able to return. The last ones, the 800 evacuees from Las Manchas, Las Norias and five other neighborhoods south of the new volcano, one of the hardest hit by the ash fall.
This reason has slowed the recovery of normality for many islanders. In fact, there are few who dare to speak of the definitive return to their homes, since in addition to the large amounts of material accumulated on the road, parks and exteriors of structures, there is the lack of water supply, which will be restored at the end of the month, according to statements by the president of the Cabildo de La Palma, Mariano Hernández Zapata.
José Miguel is one of the residents of Las Manchas who has returned home. “I have to thank the administrations for their collaboration, which has provided us with water to carry out cleaning tasks through the firefighters who are bringing it to me,” explained José Miguel. “They have also helped me remove ashes, without them the roof of my house would not have held up.”
Regarding the water cuts, the Insular Water Council of La Palma works to recover this precious element in the areas of the Valley that have been affected by the flows. Specifically, the councilor of the Area, Carlos Cabrera, pointed out that various actions will be carried out to return the water service to homes in the areas of Jedey and Las Manchas, as well as to the coast of the Aridane Valley.
Aid for palm trees
The Government of the Canary Islands has estimated this week at 227 million euros the aid delivered and various actions carried out on the island of La Palma to care for people, individuals and legal entities, affected by the eruption.
In its last updated report this Monday, the Canarian executive specifies that the single register of affected people has received 4,508 applications, has initiated 4,086 files (93.54%), of which 3,282 (75.14%) have been signed and another 804 ( 19.68%) are in process.
Regarding the aid and actions carried out, it specifies that 102.3 million have been dedicated to housing and temporary accommodation, including 9.8 for the purchase of 104 flats, 7.1 for 120 prefabricated houses and 2 million for hotel accommodation.
In the chapter on social emergency and employment, it accounts for the millions of the extraordinary training and employment plan, 1.5 million from the municipalities to reinforce assistance to the victims, 200,000 euros from the payment of additional resources to recipients of the PCI and 30,000 euros from psychological support provided by licensed professionals.
Likewise, it refers to 7 million euros received in donations by the Cabildo de La Palma (3.5 million to 1,300 families), and the municipalities of Los Llanos (2.2 million to 1,300 families), El Paso (1.2 million) and Tazacorte (133,600 euros to 202 families).
The balance of aid also mentions 31.13 million in aid to the banana sector (13.5 million), to the livestock and fishing sector (536,000 euros), to companies (2.44 million), as well as 11.16 million subscriptions from the compensation fund and 3.5 million in Social Security bonus aid and support for the self-employed.
Finally, it includes another 35.1 million in the miscellaneous chapter: 4.7 million from desalination plants, 10 from the agricultural irrigation guarantee fund, 1.8 from the new track layout between Las Manchas and Puerto Naos, 300,000 euros from the service office for those affected, 400,000 from the community participation and listening project, 335,386 from the payments made by the compensation consortium for affected vehicles and 15 million from a grant to the Fundación Canaria Biosphere Reserve of La Palma.
The experts from the Geological and Mining Institute of Spain (IGME) and the Volcanological Institute of the Canary Islands (Involcan) continue their exploration and study of the fractures and eruptive mouths that continue to degas and at high temperatures.
In recently shared images, IGME experts have analyzed an area that maintains active fumaroles, which continue to emit sulfur dioxide in concentrations above 100 parts per million (ppm) and from whose ground temperatures above 840ºC are recorded. “In the video you can see the interior of the incandescent fumarole, the yellow edge due to the sulfur crystallizations and the lateral continuity of the fracture is observed,” the experts explained.
The maritime exclusion zone is reduced
This first month without an active volcano, the maritime exclusion area between the Faro de Las Hoyas and Tazacorte has been reduced, which will allow fishing to be reactivated in the area, the Ministry of Public Administrations, Justice and Security reported in a press release. The Maritime Captaincy has delimited the new exclusion zone half a nautical mile from the coast between La Bombilla and San Borondón. The boats will have to request permission from the Maritime Captaincy and Pevolca to navigate within 200 meters of the strips generated by the volcano, the Ministry of Transport reports on its twitter account.