Cumbre vieja: The authorities terminate the eruption of the La Palma volcano after 10 days without activity | Society

The authorities have concluded this December 25 the eruptive process in the La Palma volcano, 96 days after it began, on a sunny Sunday afternoon in September, at 03:03 (local time). “Today’s announcement can be summed up in four words: the volcano has ended,” said Julio Pérez, the Minister of Security and spokesman for the Government of the Canary Islands and the Volcanic Emergency Plan of the Canary Islands (Pevolca), who added the ” relief ”that you feel after this confirmation.

Experts warn, however, that the activity in the subsoil of the island continues, and will do so for a long time, in which the local population will have to get used to periodic earthquakes.

The completion of the eruption is certified by the scientists after ten continuous days of confirming the signs of depletion of the volcano, with low or insignificant records of tremor, seismicity and emission of materials. The counselor Julio Pérez has made the announcement accompanied by faces that have become known to public opinion. For example, the technical director, Miguel Ángel Morcuende and the spokesperson for the scientific committee, María José Blanco.

Done just in time

“We do not like to say that it is finished,” explains the geologist and volcanologist of the National Geographic Institute (IGN) Stavros Meletlidis (54 years). “From the Pevolca, 10 days of waiting were established. I proposed that there be more. In any case, this is an insignificant number: the eruption may have ended, but the volcanic process will continue for a long time ”.

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“The device is the same, despite the end of the eruption,” say sources from the leadership of the Forward Command Post (PMA). “The emergency has not ended yet,” they sentence. “The effects derived from the eruption remain. We have runoffs with high temperatures, degassing processes, supply of hot magma that is coming into contact with the sea in the lava deltas ”. The WFP is zoning the land and monitoring gas pockets to allow some neighbors to return. “But his return will not be suddenly. You have to be patient. At least, yes, we have taken the first step, which is to end the eruption “. We also have to guarantee ”, completes the acting technical director of the Canary Islands Volcanic Emergency Plan, Rubén Fernández,“ that all areas have essential services. There is so much to do”.

The lava cuts the Camino Cabeza de Vaca, in the town of Tacande (El Paso), on December 20.
The lava cuts the Camino Cabeza de Vaca, in the town of Tacande (El Paso), on December 20.ARTURO RODRÍGUEZ

Look To The Future

Now, the island looks to its future with the scars of a new eruption covering part of its orography. There are 1,218 hectares, 370 of crops, covered by lava within a perimeter of 60.9 kilometers. 1,676 buildings destroyed, 73.8 kilometers of roads buried. During these more than three months, the successive pourings were causing the evacuation of more than 7,000 people. Of these, more than 2,300 have been directly affected by the effects of the eruption.

The first of the tasks is to solve the housing emergency. The Government of the Canary Islands plans to deliver about 100 homes before the end of the year. In addition, work has begun to install modular houses in Los Llanos de Aridane (the municipality most affected by the eruption) and El Paso. There are also the hundreds of businesses destroyed. The central government has activated help lines (both direct and tax exemptions) to SMEs, the self-employed, farmers and fishermen. The consequences of the 150 million cubic meters of magma expelled by the Cumbre Vieja cone will last for many years.

Stavros Meletlidis walks through the neighborhood of Tacande (El Paso), near a giant lava flow ejected for several days since November 30 by a then newly born mouth of the volcano. Its lava gushed out fiercely and mercilessly entered this small town, a few kilometers from the urban area. It has been more than three weeks, and this laundry still gives off a heat that is able to cancel out the cold autumn wind. The volcano is barely a mile away and, unlike then, silence is the norm. Around, houses devoured by lava, walls suffocated by ash. And an intense burning smell.

The Greek scientist (“I’m actually from the Canary Islands, he clarifies with a laugh”) claims to have learned a lot during these three months. “The volcano has taught us many things already, and it will teach us many more in the future. Especially one: how to avoid human losses ”. It was present in the eruption of Tagoro (island of El Hierro) in 2011. But it is in this, partly thanks to technology and its terrestrial nature, that the study of volcanoes has exploded. “For a volcanologist this is wonderful,” he explains, looking at the mouth now asleep. “However, I have not been able to truly enjoy it because of all the damage it has caused.” Meletlidis has been living in the Canary Islands for 21 years, and knows this island perfectly. “At night you would look out and see all that full of lights and life. And there is nothing, the references have been completely lost ”, he laments. “The truth is that it is hard, I have been in many of those houses, you know that I have dined in many of those restaurants … it is like a bad dream”.

A bad dream that has not ended. After passing through a rigid control of the Civil Guard, the IGN Toyota SUV heads into the Cumbre Vieja Natural Park at full speed. Its slopes are overflowing with ash. Dark gray predominates on what until September was a forest track. Here too, the smell of burned wood is intense. And, despite everything, life makes its way again after the tragedy. “If you look at it, the green is already sprouting again,” says the scientist, and explains that after millions of years of evolution, the Canarian pines have become accustomed to volcanoes and fires.

Craters left by volcanic bombs in the surroundings of the Cumbre Vieja Natural Park (La Palma).
Craters left by volcanic bombs in the surroundings of the Cumbre Vieja Natural Park (La Palma). ARTURO RODRÍGUE

Meletlidis for the off-road vehicle in the natural park of Cumbre Vieja, in the exclusion zone. From here, the volcano presides over the view of the Aridane valley. You can clearly see the cone, the streams that surrounded it from the north and fell down the slope to the west. And the language settled above entire neighborhoods such as Todoque, part of La Laguna, El Pastelero, Callejón de la Gata, the mountains of Todoque and La Laguna and, at the end, the port of Tazacorte and the lava deltas created in its surroundings. .

What to do with all this land now that the eruption is over and you have to think about rebuilding? “I am not in favor of conserving the entire eruption area,” says Stavros Meletlidis. “This will not be the last volcano that the island suffers, and if we take the island away from its inhabitants, people are going to get very angry and, in the end, it will be emptied.”

And sentence: “You have to give the volcano to the palm trees.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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