It took 85 days for the Cumbre Vieja volcano to fall back to sleep: the eruption on the Spanish island of La Palma, which caused considerable damage, was declared “over” on Saturday, the authorities considering that it has stopped December 13.
“Today the scientific committee can say it […] the eruption is over, ”announced Julio Pérez, director of the Canary Islands Volcanic Emergency Plan (Pevolca) at a press conference on Saturday.
“There is no lava, no significant gas emission, no significant earthquakes,” said the official, recalling that this eruption lasted “85 days and 8 hours” between September 19 until December 13.
It took ten consecutive days without any significant sign of volcanic activity, a period required according to scientific experts, to be able to say that the episode was over, while the end of the eruption was repeatedly felt, before resuming each time. times a few days later, much to the dismay of the islanders.
It is, tweeted the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, “the most beautiful Christmas present […] we will continue to work together, with all the institutions to revive the wonderful island of La Palma and repair the damage caused ”.
Now Cumbre Vieja is in lethargy, its lava torrents are black, frozen, hardened, and a layer of black sand – ash – has settled like a veil over the place.
It will take years, if not a decade, to clean up, clear away, rebuild and reclaim this disfigured land.
“The end of the eruption does not mean that there is no more danger”, warned Julio Pérez, adding that “the risks and dangers remain”. There will still be toxic gas emissions and the lava will take a long time to cool. Not to mention the risk of land collapse.
The volcanic activity is inscribed in the history of La Palma, which, like the six other islands of the Canary archipelago – located in the Atlantic Ocean, off the northwest coast of Africa – is of volcanic origin.
However, it was the longest eruption the island has known and the first in 50 years, after San Juan Volcano in 1949 and Teneguia in 1971.
Despite its duration and the impressive images of the molten lava flows, it did not kill anybody, but caused enormous damage: more than 7000 people were evacuated, among whom approximately 500 still live in hotels, and near 3000 buildings were destroyed.
The lava covered 1219 hectares of the surface of the island and even enlarged it: the flows which reached the sea solidified and gave birth to two peninsulas, adding 43.5 hectares to the south and 5 hectares to the north, according to data provided by local authorities on Saturday.
At the height of the episode, the volcano spat out thousands of gallons of lava, producing bubbling, fluorescent flows that rolled down the mountain, all in a constant roar.
The 83,000 inhabitants of La Palma will not forget the earthquakes, nor the ash rains, nor the toxic gases or the smoke escaping from the cone of the volcano which forced them to seal themselves sometimes for several days.
Sunken villas or buildings, roads disappearing under lava flows and spectacular jets of salt water when the lava entered the sea: the activity of the volcano has punctuated Spanish television news for weeks on end.
Rebuild or leave
Three months of paralysis, with regular air traffic interruptions and the closure of La Palma airport, on this small island heavily dependent on tourism.
The lava has also done a lot of harm to plantations, spread over the 70,000 hectares of the island, of bananas, the other key sector of the local economy, since it represents 50% of its GDP.
The damage could amount to 900 million euros, local authorities estimated on Saturday.
The Spanish government has pledged 225 million euros in aid intended in particular to build housing and buy basic goods, as well as direct subsidies to farmers and fishermen.
Madrid also called on the European Commission to activate the European Union solidarity fund.