The Hell of La Palma

          On September 19th, the volcano Cumbre Vieja erupted, situated on the island of La Palma, an integrant of the Canary Islands. After waking up in a numb state that lasted half a century, Cumbre Vieja was resurrected, bringing with it chaos and destruction, making thousands of families homeless and contributing to the perpetuation of climate change, as well as extinguishing subsistence ways that support the local economy. 

Duration of the phenomenon 

          Without the prevention that secured the imminent extinction of this phenomenon, since the very beginning that the Island of La Palma has had numerous daily earthquakes, knowing that the biggest magnitude registered until now has made a 5.1, on the Richter scale. The magnitude and depth produced by this daily seismicity affects on a big scale the stability and structure of the volcano, because of these constant clashes, has suffered a slip of its central cone, triggering new lava spills. 

Level of destruction and its consequences

          According to the data made available by the European system of satellites Copernicus, with this new spill of unusual amounts of lean mass, the total number of hectares consumed has almost passed the 900 hectares, such as the number of destroyed buildings, exceeding the 2000 structures. 

          In the light of more recent events, the president of the Canary archipelago, Ángel Victor Torres, admits that the end of the volcanic eruption is still not seen in the near future “we still have many weeks of emergency ahead of us”, citing Victor’s words to Efe agency. 

          However, in the middle of all this affliction, thousands of inhabitants saw themselves forced to leave their homes and their life projects, in hope of making out of it physically untouched, although now it appears the feared question of how they’re going to sustain themselves, since, all agricultural activity that stimulated the local economy and employed a vast number of workers, was completely devastated by the flames of the eruption.  

          The damage caused stroked majorly the cultivation of banana trees, avocados, and vineyards. To these casualties are added on an equal form the systems of irrigation and contamination of water tables. 

          However, there are more and more volunteers that are responsible for collecting, in the fastest way possible, essential products for the survival of the volcano’s victims, that are for example food, clothes, and toys, in a way to offer an environment of positivity and hope. 

          About the Spanish government, it is also making itself ready to minimize the damage caused to the population’s lives affected by the Cumbre Vieja’s eruption. On his fifth visit to the island on the 23rd of October, the Spanish government representative, Pedro Sanchéz, affirmed that it was urgent to fasten the economic aid given to La Palma, joining the council of ministers on the 26th. 

          For that, he admits changing the contingency fund budget, in a way to accelerate the arrival of resources, for the various affected sectors, such as the local employment, where will be given 63 million euros, as well as the intervention of the ministry of agriculture and fishing, that will contribute with an aid of 6,8 million euros, as established on the recovery plan for the island.

Effects of the volcanic eruption in environmental quality

          In terms of its action in the environmental picture, the volcanic eruption spread large quantities of sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere which have even trespassed international borders, affecting countries like Morocco, Tunisia, and the Mediterranean coast of Spain, France, Italy, Algeria, and Libya, according to the European satellite system Copernicus.

          However, in the last days, the air quality has suffered a positive reversal, due to the dispersion of gases and the lower concentration of particles with small dimensions, especially in the regions of Los Llanos de Aridane, El Passo, and Tazacorte.

          For their part, Spanish authorities informed that the current position of the ash and sulfur dioxide clouds will allow the return of the operation of airports in the Canary Islands.

          Among other phenomena caused by the volcanic activity of La Palma, the entry of lava into the sea must be highlighted, originating a vertical cloud, composed of steam with a large density, capable of amazing anyone who witnessed this event.

          According to Luiz Somoza, vice-rector of the Geological and Mining Institute of Spain, this cloud proved not to be harmful to public health, even if it caused some constraints, such as the enlargement of the security perimeter, the evacuation of the most affected areas, the suspension of sea navigation and changing in water transparency in the west coast of La Palma.

          Another sequel of the lava break in the sea, Samoza added, takes form in the increase in the water temperature in the area affected by the lava, causing repercussions in the marine ecosystem of the region, harming fishing activity, which will take an estimated six months to fully recover.

Portugal’s solidarity towards La Palma

          Recently, Portuguese prime minister, António Costa, by the end of the Iberian summit, which took place in Trujilo, in the region of the Spanish Estremadura, expressed his compassion and solidarity – representing the feelings of the Portuguese citizens in his words – towards the disaster that still lives in La Palma.

          In his speech, António Costa stresses the undeniable importance of the bond between Portugal and Spain, essentially in civil protection, stating that “we are all too few to help ourselves in these difficult times that one or the other can live”, words that were well received by the Spanish prime minister.

The light at the end of the tunnel

          It is noted, equally, the importance and the advantages provided by the satellite system Copernicus, an initiative designed jointed between the European Union and European Space Agency. This project presents as their main goals the observation of the Earth, to prevent, monitor, and protect the population in the case of natural disasters.

          It is thanks to this system that the Spanish authorities have been able to, efficiently, implement the measures and protocols established in the Spanish civil security services. Although the chaotic effects caused by the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano, this situation has shown that the mutual aid and solidarity shown towards the victims of the volcano plays a vital role in overcoming this obstacle, by spreading a message of faith and hope in rebuilding everything that was lost, acting as a kind of light at the end of the tunnel.

Translated by Maria Luís Dias e Matilde São José.

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