Sunday, October 1

The volcano has been extinguished, but the return to normality is still a long way off for the palm trees

The semaphore of the Canary Islands Volcanic Emergency Plan (Pevolca) turned red on September 19, when the land was opened on the mountain of Cabeza de Vaca, in the municipality of El Paso (La Palma), and so it continues more than three months later, even though the volcano’s eruptive activity has already ceased.

Evacuees from some areas affected by the eruption will be able to return to their homes from Monday

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There is a jumble of emotions right now on the island. Joy to know that the “monster”, as many palm trees called the volcano, has stopped vomiting pyroclasts and magma. But he is also suspicious, because they fear ceasing to be a media and institutional focus when there is still a long way to go to return to normality.

Rosanna is one of the more than 7,000 people who were evacuated during the eruptive process and have not yet recovered their lives. She lived in Las Manchas, one of the neighborhoods most affected by the winding paths of the lava. During the weeks that the eruption lasted, she had a plan on Sunday to go to her house accompanied by security agents to remove the ash accumulated on the roof, the garden, the garage and practically every point of her home, buried under black sand.

The volcano has already ceased to illuminate the nights of La Palma, but for Rosanna the return to her home is still uncertain. “I think the return is far away. There are gases, we run out of water and we have to redo all the connections and tanks. Now we must see the structures of the houses, if they are damaged. Much work ahead. Doing the road is essential. Many things ”, he says in a telephone conversation.

Both the president of the island council, Mariano Zapata (PP), and the regional government, Ángel Víctor Torres (PSOE), have indicated that the relocation of affected residents is the “priority” for the coming weeks. So far just over thirty floors have been delivered, an insufficient number (up to 1,676 buildings have been razed, 1,345 for residential use, according to the Cadastre) for a depleted population. According to a study promoted by the Spanish Association of Psychiatry (ASEPP), the consumption of drugs among the palm trees has increased considerably since the crisis broke out.

Just like Rosanna is Jésica Díaz, who now lives in a caravan after being evicted from her home, located in La Bombilla. The return, he says, is not expected “soon.” “We cannot even visit our house. In the same way, we don’t have water ”. And to that is added another problem: before it took 20 minutes to reach the portal of his home; Now he must drive more than an hour and a half because the road that linked Las Manchas with Los Llanos de Aridane is cut off.

“We do not see viable if they let us go today because it is a lot of money in fuel”, sentence. The Government of the Canary Islands expects that the emergency roads that link both municipalities will be by the end of January 2022, now that the works are already “final” and there is no danger that the inclement volcanoes will cause unforeseen damage again, as it has reasoned the canary president.

Meanwhile, La Palma continues with its demands. This Monday a demonstration was held in front of the Los Llanos de Aridane Town Hall, the town most damaged by the eruptive activity. According to the platform Citizen Support Initiative, some 2,000 people demanded agility in the aid and an “immediate” distribution of the donations in the first concentration that has united the different groups of victims of the volcano.

However, there are still many doubts. One proof is that on January 14 a double informative conference will be held, with lawyers and notaries, to clarify issues. By then, nearly four months will have passed since the lives of thousands of people changed, many of them still not knowing what to do and how to claim what they lost.

For the agricultural sector, the backbone of the palm economy, 13.5 million euros have arrived. But that amount means little to Alexis Fuentes, whose farm is surrounded by lava flows. He hasn’t been able to water it for months. “You have to wait for the works on the coast road to start before you can enter them. They will connect electricity, irrigation and others as the works progress ”, he points out.

The City Council of Tazacorte has convened an informative assembly for farmers and ranchers on Monday, January 3. The objective: to continue solving doubts. “What you need is to get to work now. Many photos, many visits and many promises, but you cannot live with promises ”, adds Alexis. The bill is very expensive: 370.1 hectares of banana trees, vineyards and avocado trees have been lost.

Daniel Álvarez, for his part, has seen how the lava has caused damage to his business, a small bar in Las Manchas. “The whole terrace fell off me, it ripped off all the electricity cables. All my merchandise spoiled, just bought two days before the volcano erupted. A disaster, really ”.

Those affected have begun to sue more vigorously now that the volcano has been extinguished. Dulce García, one of the lawyers who is providing voluntary help to those affected, highlights: “When people begin to claim their due, it is when we make ourselves necessary. And it is clear that in our case it goes to more. And it will go to much more. So, this loosening, nothing, quite the opposite. Now the good begins ”.