Wednesday, October 20

The last day of Carmen and Pedro’s shop before the lava arrives


In the small shop of Carmen and Pedro, in the neighborhood of La Laguna (Los Llanos de Aridane, La Palma), there are hardly any customers this Monday. At the corner, the Civil Guard has restricted the passage before the advance of the lava tongue and only allows farmers to advance a few meters by car to water their banana trees. Many fear that the lava, that wall of incandescent rocks at a thousand degrees, is coming too close to the neighborhood. So much so that it wipes out everything it finds, as it did in Todoque. “There is a ravine in front of it, and it is going to take all the houses out there,” regrets Pedro, who has already made up his mind to move his small premises to Tenerife, where he has a house and a warehouse. “Pedro, you don’t know what’s going to happen, don’t be saying anything,” Carmen replies enraged. This couple has been running a business on Cruz Chica Street for more than 10 years, one of the closest points to the lava that has not been evacuated and that fears that it will be emptied as abruptly as possible. But there are no certainties. At first it seemed that the volcano would not expel material through that area, further north than where it did at first. And no one dares to predict anything anymore. The only thing left for them is to conjecture between four walls: “A lot has to change for the lava to pass through here,” says a man in a reflective vest standing with the security agents. “I would take out everything I had,” adds another.

The north flow of the Cumbre Vieja volcano, which emerged after the volcanic cone partially collapsed this Saturday, has affected the Callejón de la Gata industrial estate, in the municipality of Los Llanos de Aridane, destroying a cement factory and causing a cloud of toxic gas that has forced the Technical Directorate of the Canary Islands Volcanic Emergency Plan (PEVOLCA) to order the confinement of several populations. The magma continues to flow out in a fluid way and, although it remains in the exclusion area, it has already affected 591 hectares. Only in the last day has it increased its destruction by 10%.

In Carmen and Pedro’s store, although there are no customers, there is a hustle and bustle. She is sitting, with a stack of papers on the table, organizing the inventory that she is going to keep (in case they have to evacuate and leave with what she is wearing) and the one that she is going to sell. in extremis to its distributors. He recites what is in front of him. “One KH7, four Pantene shampoos, five packets of Oreo cookies…”. And in the meantime, keep up your predictions. “I believe that here [la lava] it does not arrive “, says Pedro to himself,” the problem is if it overflows, if it gains width. “” If you have to come, do it at once, “says one of the neighbors who entered the premises a few minutes ago, forming a huddle around the shelf. “Give me a few more days to pick up the machines,” Pedro concludes.

Only the two of them (and Carmen from time to time, when she forgets the paperwork) and the vans and pick-ups full of furniture and appliances that do not stop happening in front of the establishment. Some vehicles, very few, stop and store groceries from the boxed store. Pedro says that with a large truck it would be good to go to Tenerife. He believes that this Wednesday they will be able to leave. Carmen does not like the comment again. “Now a transporter comes and I take all this. We have a house and a place in Tenerife. It is true that we have been here for more than ten years, but this is very complicated,” he insists.

Nothing can describe what it means to leave behind what they have built during the last decades of their lives. That Carmen knows very well. He was born in Venezuela and emigrated 20 years ago to La Palma, where he set up his own store together with Pedro. “We were doing well. We lived off of this,” he recalls. She already speaks in the past tense, as if that time had vanished, as if the lava had already buried what she had built. And almost resigning himself, he returns to his documents, giving a shriek to Pedro, the one in charge of dictating what is in the bazaar and what is not. “Strawberry jam, three, olive oil, four …”. In spite of everything, outside, in the street, where the volcanic sand has hidden the road markings of the roads, some Civil Guard agents smile. A woman has been carelessly sweeping the ash off her balcony and debris has fallen on top of a report from a major television show. Laughter breaks through. At least a few seconds.

“If you get here, you have to emigrate from this island”

A few meters from the Carmen and Pedro shops is the Central bar, where about a dozen people gather for lunch. At that time, it was announced on Canarian television that the lava tongue was burying the industrial park of Los Llanos de Aridane and it was unknown if it would run until it reached the residential nucleus of La Laguna, an unlikely option at the beginning of the eruption but which has taken a toll. strength in the last days. “If you get here, partner,” exclaims Pablo, who swallows a couple of almonds again, “you have to emigrate from this island, because then you will reach the town of Tazacorte.”

Pablo leaves the bar and points to the industrial estate. “Do you see those blue ships over there?”, He asks, knowing that he knows the answer, “if you see them fall, leave La Laguna.” At the moment, no one knows if that will happen.

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