The story of José helping affected fellow humans on La Palma

by Lorraine Williamson
José helps fellow islanders

LA PALMA – José Heriberto Pérez Camacho from Los Llanos de Aridane has been experiencing the human suffering caused by the volcanic eruption on La Palma for ten days. His home is safe, but for countless fellow islanders, that is not the case. He does everything he can to help them.  

José tells his story to the Spanish newspaper Nius. Since last Thursday, he has been collecting furniture and other personal belongings from the homes of people who have been evacuated with his van. “I’ve seen a lot of sad things in my life, but never anything like this,” he says visibly upset. 

Last week he decided to roll up his sleeves. In the most affected municipalities he posted notes with his telephone number. He has already been able to help ten families; literally day and night he is there for them. “The volcanic eruption is a major disaster, at such a moment everyone has to do their part,” says José. 

Intense experience 

The islanders all know that they live on a volcanic island, but that it would actually come to an eruption that would destroy houses, most had never thought of that. “It is moving to see how neatly the homes are of the people I visit. It is indescribable what happens when you are told to evacuate in a hurry. Photos of their house are then the only memory for these people. It is an unforgettable and intense experience”. 

José talks about his heaviest moment. The lava flow came closer and closer, making a deafening noise. As the earth shook and the ashes fell, he was still oblivious to the danger he was in at the time. It wasn’t until later, when he talked to friends about it, that he realised that he had put his own life on the line. 

“The properties we were able to save are kept in sports halls. There will be a note with the owner’s name on it. That’s all these people have left. They don’t know what will be left of their house or what their life will be like. Some people can turn to family or friends,” José continues his story. 

“Don’t just come to take pictures” 

He has to rest for the time being due to a bruised rib. But José is sleeping badly, and can’t wait to roll up his sleeves again. In the meantime, his van is gratefully used. Before the interview ends, José makes another appeal not to forget the people of La Palma. “Don’t just come here to talk and take pictures, but help us. Now more than ever, we need to be there for each other. The solidarity among the islanders is immense, but we need large-scale help to get the lives of these families back in order,” emphasises José. 

Buy bananas! 

One of the main sources of income for residents of La Palma is banana cultivation. Influencers and anonymous stakeholders have called on various media to buy as many bananas as possible to help those affected at least financially. 

La Palma accounts for 35% of Spain’s banana production. 10,000 families are financially dependent on banana cultivation. Since there are currently not many alternatives for generating income, it is important that as many bananas as possible are bought from La Palma now. 

For the time being, it is unclear exactly how many hectares of banana plantations have been lost. Within the so-called zone 0, it concerns 400 hectares (good for 20 million kilos of bananas per year), but the affected area is still expanding. Now everything is being done to secure the current crop and bring it to market as soon as possible. As soon as the ashes land on the bananas, they can in principle no longer be sold. Man and power are now working to remove the ashes from the bananas with the greatest possible care so that they are not lost. It is therefore not only about the area where the lava destroyed the plantations but about the banana plantations on the entire island. 

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