Spain declares 3-month La Palma volcano eruption officially over – Scientists have declared a months-long volcanic eruption on the Spanish Canary Island of La Palma officially over, allowing the islanders to breathe a sigh of relief.
The announcement on Saturday was made nearly 100 days after the Cumbre Vieja volcano began to spew out lava, rock and ash and upended the lives of thousands.
After bursting into action on September 19, the volcano suddenly went quiet on December 13.
But authorities on the most northwest island in Spain’s Canary Islands archipelago, wary of raising false hope, held off until Christmas Day to give the all clear and declare La Palma’s longest eruption on record over.
“What I want to say today can be said with just four words: The eruption is over,” Canary Islands regional security chief Julio Perez told a news conference on Saturday.
During the eruption, fiery molten rock flowing down towards the sea destroyed thousands of buildings, entombed banana plantations that account for nearly half the island’s economy, ruined irrigation systems, cut off roads and forced many to evacuate. But despite the widespread damage, no one was killed and no injuries were directly linked to the eruption.
Maria Jose Blanco, director of the National Geographic Institute on the Canaries, said all indicators suggested the eruption had run out of energy but she did not rule out a future reactivation.
I don’t trust this beast’
About 3,000 properties in total were destroyed by lava that now covers 1,219 hectares (3,012 acres) – equivalent to roughly 1,500 football grounds – according to the final tally by local emergency services.
Meanwhile, of the 7,000 people evacuated, most have returned home but many houses that remain standing are uninhabitable due to ash damage. With many roads blocked, some plantations are also now only accessible by sea.
German couple Jacqueline Rehm and Juergen Doelz were among those forced to evacuate, fleeing their rented house in the village of Todoque and moving to their small sailboat for seven weeks.
“We couldn’t save anything, none of the furniture, none of my paintings, it’s all under the lava now,” Rehm, 49, told Reuters news agency, adding that they would move to nearby Tenerife after Christmas.
“I’m not sure it’s really over. I don’t trust this beast at all,” she said.
‘Relief and hope’
The volcanic roar that served as a constant reminder of the eruption may have subsided and islanders no longer have to carry umbrellas and goggles to protect against ash, but a mammoth clean-up operation is only just getting under way.
The government has pledged more than 400 million euros ($453m) for reconstruction but some residents and businesses have complained that funds are slow to arrive.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called the eruption’s end “the best Christmas present”.
“We will continue working together, all institutions, to relaunch the marvelous island of La Palma and repair the damage,” he tweeted.
But Perez said there was no sense of “joy or satisfaction” following the announcement, only a feeling of “emotional relief and hope”.
“Because now, we can apply ourselves and focus completely on the reconstruction work,” he said, adding the archipelago’s government valued the loss of buildings and infrastructure on La Palma at more than 900 million euros ($1bn).