Sunday, October 24

One day after the arrival of the lava to the sea in Tazacorte


Sitting on a bench under the shade of the trees in the center of Tazacorte, Pedro allowed himself to leave the confinement that he has lived since September 26 in Marina Baja. The Volcanic Emergency Plan of the Canary Islands (Pevolca) ordered that its residents, along with those of Marina Alta, San Borondón and La Condesa, stay in their houses with closed doors and windows due to the consequences of the arrival of the lava to the sea in populations close. His wife, with whom he has been married for 50 years, wanted to go to mass because the church commemorated the patron Saint Michael of the Archangel. With a mask, glasses and by car, they traveled the short distance that separated them from the urban center.

Pedro wants to talk. The night before, together with his wife, he had seen Canary TV the phenomenon, which has generated a cloud of gases and in a few hours has created a delta 500 meters high. He says it reminded him of the San Juan volcano, which he saw when he was 5 years old. From his memory he extracts moments in which he was able to see that volcano erupting in 1949. The population could get very close to the lava flows, “if they wanted to, they could touch the lava”, he jokingly says. He also brings to the present an anecdote of an acquaintance of his family at that time, who had a sweet potato farm through which the lava flow would pass. He was already very close, but he decided to go and collect: “For the lava to take them, I’ll take them.” Laugh “They were other times,” he adds.

On the terrace at the Quiosco San Miguel Plaza, in the center of Tazacorte, María has a few beers with a friend. Dressed in her best clothes, she has just returned from a mass celebrated in the parish of San Miguel Arcángel. “We were few, but we lived it with fervor,” he says smiling. The wind blows fiercely in the area, carrying ash to the tables and about to knock down an umbrella. The waiter has no doubts: “This is not normal here.” But that day Maria wants to have fun for a while. “The parish priest has asked San Miguel to take care of the palm trees, we have also sung, it has been very beautiful.”

Traditionally, the festival is celebrated with a religious ceremony in which the president of the Cabildo of La Palma gives a speech and all the island’s authorities attend, in an institutional but festive atmosphere. This time, Jorge Concepción, the parish priest of San Miguel, offered mass to about twenty people, as Efe collected, and they gave comfort to his parishioners.

There were few people on the Tazacorte pier on the morning of this September 29. Journalists milled at the end of the port, closed last night, to record the lava falling into the sea from a 100-meter cliff. In the recreational boating area, John grabs a hose to fuel his boat, where he lives. In English, he says he was ordered to vacate the area the night before. “But I only had 30 euros in my pocket and nowhere to go.” After 3 hours waiting near the fence that closed the access, he was able to return.

He arrived on La Palma in November of last year. He left England five years ago and, after sailing through the Mediterranean with his wife, ended up on the island with the expectation of crossing the Atlantic. It says that when the volcano erupted it was in Germany. The next day he returned, worried about his ship. Every day, you must clean a large amount of ash from your deck. He is waiting for his wife to return to the island to go to El Hierro. “We don’t want to be near the volcano.”

In the fishing area, there was no room in the moorings of the artisanal fleet. During the morning, the activity was reduced to the works to build an aquaculture center and two people painting a boat. Alberto, with a brush dyed blue that he poses on his father-in-law’s boat, says that he was dedicated to the cultivation of banana trees, but with the advance of the lava flow he cannot go to the farms, located in the El Remo area. He lived in an inherited house in Los Campitos, but it no longer exists. Now he lives in the house of some friends, with his wife and three children, on the mountain of Tenisca.

Between the streets, some neighbors of the town point out some houses with a pink facade. They believe that they are some of the floors that will go to those affected. A woman calls for pressure on politicians to keep “the promises she is making.” Nearby, she lives momentarily at a friend’s house with her parents, her daughters and her husband. She is from El Paraíso and her house still stands. That of his parents, along with their vineyards and banana plantations, did not suffer the same fate. I was in Todoque. When the lava stopped before taking the church with it, he held out hope. But when he saw the images of the church crumbling, he knew what would happen to the house, located about 100 meters away.

His parents receive 600 euros of pension and right now it is the only thing they have. He hopes that the aid will arrive as soon as possible, but he fears that it will take time to take effect and the situation for his family will lengthen. He brings up the road between El Remo and Fuencaliente, a “necessary” work that has been announced repeatedly during the electoral period, but never becomes a reality. The distance in a straight line that separates both areas is just over 3 kilometers, but to cross it it takes more than 1 hour. Lava has split the island in two to the west. She narrates the impotence of her husband when he tried to cross, but they told him that he had to go through Las Breñas and Villa de Mazo. “Perhaps, if that road had been made, it could now be easily accessed,” he adds.

The gas clouds have not caused human damage

The cloud of gases generated by the lava from the volcano has not caused human damage when it comes into contact with the water. Rubén Fernández, technical director of the Canary Islands Volcanic Emergency Plan (Pevolca), has indicated that the force of the wind has kept the column of gases over the affected area and has not displaced it towards the interior of the island. Nor to inhabited areas.

Neither has the lava caused significant damage to the seabed, as it has fallen on a sandy area “almost lifeless.” On the contrary, it will form a natural reef that could even be a benefit for fishermen, according to marine biologist Carlos San Gil.

Despite everything, the island council continues to recommend that the confined residents of Tazacorte not leave their homes, since volcanic ash can have harmful effects on health, both eye, respiratory or skin irritation.

The land that lava is gaining from the sea is in the public maritime terrestrial domain. From this Wednesday it is automatically owned by the State, while the properties buried by the laundry will remain private.

It was precisely the ash that caused Binter and Canary Fly to suspend their connections with La Palma. This Wednesday, after five days with canceled flights, both companies decided to resume operations with the island “after confirming an improvement in the conditions that guarantee air safety.”

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