Raise your head between the duel and the coladas

On a day like today a year ago, the bowels of La Palma began to stir. At 3:18 p.m. on that Saturday
11 of September the earth began to tremble and the Cumbre Vieja volcano gave birth briefly, a seismic swarm that accounted for 25,000 small earthquakes in just eight days.

The strongest and most superficial of them, of magnitude 4.2, occurred around 11 am on September 19 in Jedey. That was the point where it was thought that the earth was going to crack.

The volcanic risk traffic light was still yellow, but everything indicated that the eruption was a matter of days. In fact, that same morning the eviction of people with reduced mobility and farm animals from that area began. However, just a few hours later, at 3:12 p.m. local time,
pressurized magma pushed its way further northnear the Cabeza de Vaca track, to the surprise of the scientists and security agents who were around the vicinity of the Monument of the Virgin of Fátima.

A few meters from the chapel there is now a wooden hut blocking the road to San Nicolás. It is one of the
surveillance posts enabled to dissuade the curious to enter the foothills of the volcanic cone. “We inform them of what happened, how it happened, of the risks that it entails due to the gases and the heat, of how we have felt it and what it has meant to us,” says the security guard. Everything she tells she has lived. Her house, located a few hundred meters away, is still standing, but the weight of the ash collapsed the roof. For her, like a large part of the inhabitants of the Aridane Valley, the volcano has forced her to rebuild her life.

The eruption ended nine months ago, but the recovery of this part of the island and its inhabitants is still beginning. About 2,000 people remain evicted; some lost their homes, others, some 1,500, are waiting for the emission of harmful gases to stop before returning to their homes.

The most visible part of this recovery process is the heavy machinery that splashes onto the surface of the castings. East
swarm of hydraulic breakers and bulldozers it spreads along the road that connects La Laguna and Las Norias, where vehicles already travel; along the incipient coastal highway and the track that crosses one of the two strips created by the volcano, the one closest to La Bombilla, built to make way for an irrigation pipe.

The noise of the machines appears in other places, because access roads are also being opened to reach houses isolated by lava.

The
tall temperatures, which at some points along the roadside exceed 300 degrees centigrade, make work difficult. When the works run into cracks that connect with channels that still have incandescent lava inside, the machines stop to let them cool down and to refresh the work area. In fact, these temperatures prevent the use of asphalt, which is replaced by a pavement made with a mixture of ash, lime and brine.

half destruction

In
The lagoon, with half of the hull destroyed by lava, the smell of burning is still felt and daily life goes on in front of the destruction. Buildings invaded by the lava flows barely remain standing along with others unharmed.

Some people live in houses literally besieged by lava that they access by passing through the properties of their neighbors. Others see what used to be their homes with cracked walls and collapsed roofs and ask to enter them for the last time accompanied by firefighters to save a few objects before they are demolished. "I don't even want to look at it," says one of the neighbors whose house has the affected structure.

One and the other meet on the lava with those responsible for the works on the road that starts in La Laguna, now surrounded by heavy machinery, in addition to the lava. They talk about opening access to buildings that survived and demolition plans for those that perished.

The mayor of Los Llanos de Aridane, Noelia García, does not hesitate to join the meeting to listen to the demands of the residents.

«
El Paso took the volcano, Tazacorte took the belts and Los Llanos, misfortune», says the mayor determined to try to offer a horizon to those who have seen their lives broken by the course of the lava flows.

The mission is difficult. The
collective duel is still palpable in the environment and the uncertainty continues, especially in the people evicted from
Puerto Naos and La Bombilla They don't know when they will be able to return home. «They ask me: is there anything that can be done to stop the gases? No, you can only do something to manage the risk,” says Garcia.

The truth is that nine months after the end of the eruption, there are no signs that the emission of carbon dioxide is falling in these coastal nuclei.
The air was 'normal' there until November. At that time, new lava outlets appeared to the south of the cone and high concentrations of carbon dioxide incompatible with life began to be detected in La Bombilla and Puerto Naos. Since then, the Volcanological Institute of the Canary Islands, the National Geological Institute and the Reserve and Security Group of the Civil Guard have regularly measured gas emissions, detecting
lethal concentrations of C02 even outdoors.

Perhaps those evicted by volcanic gases are currently the most tense affected. It is difficult for them to understand what is happening, therefore, the scientists are going to explain to them without intermediaries why they cannot return home.

And it is that not all the victims live this posteruptive mourning in the same way. «There are those who have already overcome that stage of mourning and are starting their new life and working overtime. There are people who are beginning to come out of that grieving process and there are people who now, after a year, look with perspective and are aware of what they have lost, "says the mayor.

“We cannot continue as before and the future is not clear either.
You have to live from day to day. If you think about the past and the future, you die of sorrow», says María Eugenia Jiménez, an affected person from Puerto Naos who tries not to complain. “She would be selfish of me. After all, my house is still there, although I don't know when I'll be able to return," explains the volunteer who sells souvenirs from the Tajogaite volcano in a makeshift shop at the entrance to the Tajuya church to raise funds for those affected.

Among the solidarity souvenirs, a T-shirt recalls the names of the nuclei that the lava swallowed;
Alcalá, El Pastelero, Los Campitos, Las Vinagreras, Todoque, La Laguna, El Pampillo, La Costa, Los Guirres, Cabrejas, El Charcón and Las Hoyas. Non-existent places that continue to appear on the maps of tourists who visit the island, which in recent weeks has registered an occupancy rate of 91%.

Finding accommodation to spend a few days in La Palma is difficult. With the 4,000 beds in Puerto Naos blocked and the vacation homes disappeared under the laundry or used to relocate those affected,
the accommodation offer has been reduced almost a third.

The eruption has also put the economic engine of La Palma in check; the banana. The lava flows buried 20% of the island's productive land, erased 228 hectares of banana plantations and affected many plantations that could not be irrigated or were trapped by the lava.

It has been a year since the eruption, but
in the Aridane Valley everything is starting now.

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