LA PALMA – La Palma experienced the longest earthquake ever on the Spanish island. And, although the earthquakes and lava flows have ended, that does not mean the disaster is over. For many people, their worst nightmare has only just begun.
In total, around 3,000 buildings and homes were destroyed by lava flows covering some 1,219 hectares of the island. And the government has pledged more than €400 million for reconstruction.
End of eruption best Christmas present ever
More than two weeks after the end of the volcanic eruption was announced, the residents of La Palma received the best Christmas present ever: they were allowed to go home. However, this only applies to a small part of the evacuated inhabitants. Of the 7,000 people evacuated, so far, only about 1,700 have returned home at the time of writing.
Many residents of La Palma in shock
The mayor of El Paso tells the Spanish news site RTVE.es many people are only now realising what exactly happened. “They are in shock,” Sergio Rodriguez said. “Thousands of people live between hope and fear. They don’t know what they will find at home, what their loved ones are doing and how to move forward financially.”
Exciting return home
The 1,700 people who are now back home have a lot to do. Outdoors, everything is buried under a layer of ash and sometimes there is damage inside as well. Many people experience problems with electricity and water supplies.
Nearly 4,000 people are still waiting for the green light to return home. They are currently still staying with family or friends or in hotels. Among these, there are also more than 1,000 people who already know that they no longer have a home to go back to.
Great uncertainty among the majority of evacuated residents
Although the Canary Island is in the reconstruction phase, there is still a lot of uncertainty. Not only for people if and when they can return home but also for example whether new homes can be built on the solidified lava.
Although Sánchez announced on December 17 that he was expanding support for businesses and residents of La Palma, not all the money has arrived in the right places yet.
Guided return home
Emergency services are currently working day and night to clean up the damage and to declare areas safe as soon as possible so that people can return to their homes. Residents who are allowed to return to their homes are accompanied by technicians from the regional government and people from the Red Cross.