Eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano, in the Canary Islands, ceases after 3 months

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After just over 85 days since the volcano Cumbre Vieja, in the Canary Islands, began to spew lava and changed the life of La Palma, scientists declared the eruption officially over this Saturday (25).

The volcano’s eruption, which became active on Sept. 19, fell silent on Dec. 13, but local officials, fearful of creating false expectations, waited until Christmas to make the announcement. The information was confirmed by the director of the Canary Islands Volcanic Emergency Plan, Julio Perez.

During the eruption months, lava fell down the mountain, engulfing homes, churches and many banana plantations, which account for nearly half of the island’s economy. Although thousands of properties were destroyed, no deaths were recorded.

The director of the National Geographic Institute of the Canary Islands, Maria José Blanco, said all indicators suggest that the eruption is over, but does not rule out a future reactivation. According to the Spanish newspaper El Pais, local experts warn that activity in the island’s underground will continue for a long time, so the local population will have to get used to periodic earthquakes.

In all, about 3,000 houses were destroyed by lava, which currently covers 1,219 hectares —somewhere around 1,500 soccer fields—, according to a survey by the emergency services.

Of the 7,000 people evacuated from the site, most have now been able to return home, even though many homes are uninhabitable due to the damage caused by the ash. With many roads blocked, some plantations are only accessible by sea.

Germans Jacqueline Rehm and Juergen Doelz were among those forced to leave. They fled a rented house in the village of Todoque and moved to a small sailboat for seven weeks. “We couldn’t save anything, none of the furniture, none of the paintings,” Rehm, 49, told Reuters, adding that they would move to the island of Tenerife after Christmas. “Now it’s all under the lava.”

“Neither the word joy nor the word satisfaction can be used today. The word we can use is relief. And emotion,” said Perez, from the Volcanic Emergency Plan, while speaking on the need to rebuild La Palma.

Local residents no longer need to carry umbrellas and eyeglasses to protect themselves from the ash, but a massive cleanup operation is starting. The damage could exceed 900 million euros, according to the Canary Islands administration.

The government of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has pledged more than 400 million euros ($2.5 billion) for reconstruction, though some residents and businesses complain that funds are slow in arriving. Madrid has also called for the launch of a European Union solidarity fund to help La Palma.

The three months of eruption also meant that the island, with 70,830 hectares, gained at least another 35 of them, generating a legal dispute over who is the owner of the new lands.

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