The announcement comes after 10 days of calm on the Cumbre Vieja volcano on the destruction-stricken Spanish Canary Island.
Scientists have officially declared the end of a months-long volcanic eruption on the Spanish Canary Island of La Palma, allowing islanders to breathe a sigh of relief.
Saturday’s announcement came nearly 100 days after the Cumbre Vieja volcano began spewing lava, rocks and ash and disrupted the lives of thousands.
After erupting in action on September 19, the volcano suddenly calmed down on December 13.
But authorities on the most northwestern island of Spain’s Canary Islands archipelago, fearing they might raise false hopes, waited until Christmas Day to give the green light and declare the longest eruption on record. in La Palma.
“What I mean today can be said in four words: the eruption is over,” Canary Islands regional security chief Julio Perez told a press conference on Saturday.
During the eruption, flaming molten rock flowing towards the sea destroyed thousands of buildings, buried banana plantations which represent almost half of the island’s economy, ruined irrigation systems, cut off from roads and forced many people to evacuate. But despite the extensive damage, no one was killed and no injuries were directly linked to the eruption.
Maria Jose Blanco, director of the National Geographical Institute of the Canaries, said all indicators suggested the eruption was low on energy, but she did not rule out future reactivation.
“I don’t trust this beast”
About 3,000 properties in total were destroyed by the lava, which now covers 1,219 hectares (3,012 acres) – the equivalent of about 1,500 football fields – according to the final tally from local emergency services.
Meanwhile, of the 7,000 evacuees, most have returned home, but many houses still standing are uninhabitable due to ash damage. With many roads blocked, some plantations are also now only accessible by sea.
German couple Jacqueline Rehm and Juergen Doelz were among those forced to evacuate, fleeing their rented home in the village of Todoque and moving into their small sailboat for seven weeks.
“We couldn’t save anything, none of the furniture, none of my paintings, everything is under the lava now,” Rehm, 49, told Reuters news agency, adding that they would move to Tenerife after Christmas .
“I’m not sure it’s really over. I don’t trust this beast at all, ”she said.
“Relief and Hope”
The volcanic roar that served as a constant reminder of the eruption may have faded, and islanders no longer need to wear umbrellas and goggles to protect themselves from the ash, but a gigantic cleanup is only doing to start.
The government has pledged more than 400 million euros ($ 453 million) for reconstruction, but some residents and businesses have complained that funds are slow to arrive.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called the end of the eruption “the best Christmas present”.
“We will continue to work together, all institutions, to revive the wonderful island of La Palma and repair the damage,” he tweeted.
But Perez said there was no feeling of “joy or satisfaction” after the announcement, only a feeling of “emotional relief and hope.”
“Because now we can apply ourselves and fully concentrate on the reconstruction works,” he said, adding that the government of the archipelago has assessed the loss of buildings and infrastructure in La Palma at more 900 million euros ($ 1 billion).