“Here the people are sunk. If she is not depressed, she is ready ”. The speaker is Jonay Pérez. He is not only the security councilor for the City of El Paso, the municipality of 7,600 inhabitants where the Cabeza de Vaca volcano that erupted last Sunday is located. He is also a neighbor, since he was born, of the El Paraíso settlement, which on Monday was devastated by a tongue of lava, taking away houses, farms and shops. One of them is that of his mother, who owned a grocery store. “She has lost ten pounds in two days. Your store is totally
[Canarianism which means to cover something with earth or other materials]. The lava passed over him ”. Jonay's mother has lost 30,000 euros in merchandise alone. But that's just the money. “Most of us were born there. We have lost our whole life. "
Jonay's situation is similar to that of hundreds of families in other towns such as Todoque, in the neighboring municipality of Los Llanos de Aridane, with 20,170 inhabitants. Anguish grows with the "inexorable" advance, in the words of the President of the Canary Islands Government, Ángel Víctor Torres, of the two flows that have sprouted from the cone, which have already engulfed almost 400 homes. The lava covers an area of about 140 hectares, with a front of 600 meters, according to data from the Steering Committee of the Canary Islands Volcanic Emergency Plan (Pevolca). Its technical director, Miguel Ángel Morcuende, explained on Wednesday that the two lava rivers continue to advance, “but very slowly”, both due to the increase in viscosity and the terrain conditions. "It cannot be guaranteed that the lava will reach the sea." The Cabeza de Vaca volcano, for now,it only shows one fissure, with nine mouths or emission centers, although not all are active.
The evacuees, about 5,600, have found refuge, especially in the homes of relatives. The two hundred who have been left homeless were initially housed in the El Fuerte barracks, on the outskirts of the capital, Santa Cruz de La Palma, with 15,695 inhabitants. President Torres announced this Wednesday that those two hundred will soon be rehoused in a hotel in the town of Fuencaliente, in the southwest of the island. Dependent persons will be transferred to health centers.
“There are people who arrive resigned,” explains Nines, a social worker for the Los Llanos City Council, at the municipal sports center where all the food and clothing aid donated by individuals is being centralized. “Many break down and cry; they are people of all ages who have lost everything, "he says. Its task is to carry out a register of people who have become homeless and find out if they are relocated or not. “Just yesterday”, says Fatima, a worker at the Canary Islands Emergency Service, “we had to treat a woman who came to ask for help with angina pectoris”.
The greatest uncertainty that neighbors have is not knowing how long this situation will last, or how it will end. There are those who do not even know what happened to their house. This is the case of Dolores (fictitious name), who has gone to the sports center to ask for food and clothes. She is from Todoque, where the lava penetrated this Tuesday, and she is convinced that she has lost her home, but she cannot be sure, since the area cannot be accessed. “It is my whole life. My parents lived there, I was born there… ”.
But if the present anguishes the palm trees, the future seems to them the same color as the ashes that a new volcano spreads.
“In two months, when this is over and the rest of Spain forgets about us, our heads will explode.
Let's wait a couple of months to see what happens… ”, says an El Paso City Council worker who asks to remain anonymous.
"God does not exist in El Paso," says Rosa, a neighbor who walks through the streets of the small urban area.
"A fire a month ago, and now this ...".
09/22/2021 Los Llanos Sports Center, La Palma.
This is one of the food and clothing collection points, and they also provide psychological assistance to the affected people.Miguel Velasco Almendral
Concern for the future
Both the President of the Government of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, and the President of the Canary Islands, strive to ensure that no one will be left out of the reconstruction of the island. Torres announced Tuesday that he will ask the European Union for help. And La Moncloa, in fact, has begun to design a specific plan to streamline aid and adapt to the exceptional circumstances of the first terrestrial volcanic emission in Spain since 1971. This will include the reconstruction of homes and infrastructures; fiscal measures for affected individuals and companies; and labor measures and specific subsidies for fishing and agriculture, the main economic livelihoods of the island apart from tourism.
If and when these aid will arrive is another source of concern for the neighbors. "My mother plans to ask the state for help to, in some way, be able to reopen her business," explains Jonay Pérez. The lava bypassed the houses of other neighbors, but some are reluctant to return to homes located in a place they now imagine devastated and lonely. “We are like a big family here,” says a man. “I was talking to a neighbor. His house is saved, but he does not want to set foot in El Paraíso again ”. The Government of the Canary Islands has announced this Wednesday that it will buy 44 empty homes in the urban area of Tazacorte and another 29 in Los Llanos de Aridane.
In the meantime, no effort is spared to reduce the damage caused by the passing of lava, even though it may end up being unsuccessful.
After evacuating the Todoque area, a group of firefighters from Gran Canaria began to dig trenches on Wednesday morning with the help of heavy machinery, according to the head of the group, Alberto Barrio.
"The superiors began to think about possibilities, and they were based on experiences that had been carried out in Finland or on the volcano in Iceland," he explains in a telephone conversation.
“And since we don't know how to stand still, we got down to work.
We could have done it before, or maybe it is useless, but by trying it will not be ”.