Volcanic gases prevent the return of 1,500 people to their homes a year later

Image of the entrance to the urban center of Puerto Naos, evicted since the beginning of the volcanic eruption. / ARCADIO SUAREZ

The high concentration of CO2 in Puerto Naos and La Bombilla remains at lethal levels. The Cabildo studies alternatives to facilitate access to the area


The president of the Cabildo de La Palma, Mariano Hernández Zapata, said yesterday that he fully understands the desperation of the residents of La Bombilla and Puerto Naos for not being able to return to their homes almost a year after the
volcanic eruptionbut stressed that
the gases that emanate in the area are deadly.

Last week two residents of Puerto Naos broke the security perimeter and
they turned out affected with dizziness from the high concentration of carbon dioxide. For this reason, Hernández Zapata yesterday asked for responsibility.

“The high incidence of gases brings us all upside down” and “we are going to continue putting alternatives on the table so that in some way gases and people can coexist, or at least that they can continue to be accessed in a timely manner” to Puerto Naos and La Bombilla, said the president of the Cabildo, although he acknowledges that
there is no “clear downward trend” in the presence of gases.

Among the measures promoted by the Cabildo, Hernández mentioned the purchase of
over a hundred CO2 concentration meters that are being installed to allow the opening of areas with low incidence of gases.

But he insisted that, although he understands the desperation of the around 1,500 evicted neighbors, he could not forget that the gas emanations from the subsoil "can cause death", so that the safety of people is the priority and access to the area is still prohibited.

He explained that they have been authorized
punctual accessesat first to almost the entire nucleus, but as the dangerousness of the gases has been demonstrated, the accessible areas have been delimited.

More than 500 people have been able to enter their homes, visits from businessmen are also being organized so that they can see how their establishments are, "we are doing our best, always putting people's safety first," he said.

He also insisted that "this is neither a game nor a whim of the administration so that the neighbors do not enter."

In fact, nearly a hundred of the
180 neighbors who still live in hotels since the eruption are from those coastal areas affected by the gases, whose closure keeps 4,000 tourist beds blocked.

"It has been shown that you can be in open spaces because the concentrations are diluted, but the danger of death is in closed spaces, mainly in garages, ground floors and first floors."

Precisely those who skipped the controls last week to enter their home, "had serious problems of suffocation, drowning, due to lack of oxygen," he clarified.

Dispersion of C02 in the open air

On the other hand, researchers from the Volcanological Institute of the Canary Islands (Involcan) are developing numerical models of CO2 dispersion in the external environment of Puerto Naos and La Bombilla. These models indicate that in certain places and in certain wind conditions the concentration of this gas can be lethal even outdoors.

The objective of this model is to assess the danger associated with CO2 in these areas of the palm coast, as reported on their social networks.

The researchers consider that "the CO2 released at room temperature, at low altitude, tends to form a layer attached to the ground that moves mainly under the effect of gravity and, secondarily, of the wind."

Using software for advanced physical-mathematical modeling of the dispersion of heavy gases, developed by researchers from the Barcelona Supercomputing Center, the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Volcanologia (INGV) in Italy and the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, the Involcan has been able to calculate the dispersion modality of this gas outside the areas of Puerto Naos and La Bombilla at different heights and under the different wind conditions that can occur in these areas.

The model, the scientists explain, has been developed from empirical measurements of the concentration of C02 in the outside ambient air and "shows the presence of lethal concentration values ​​that this gas can reach at certain times of the day."

In addition, they point out that, when the wind blows from the southeast,
C02 is dispersed throughout the core of Puerto Naos.

Involcan acknowledges that it is not known how long the high concentrations of CO2 of volcanic origin will last in the area that they are monitoring with 10 measurement stations, of which 4 are for outdoor measurements and 6 for indoor ambient air monitoring .

CO2 meters, acquired by the Cabildo de La Palma, are being installed at different points to monitor the evolution of gases to allow the opening of places with a low level of risk

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