Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Canary Islands After the Storm

El Dedo de Dios in Gran Canaria after the storm broke off it's top portion

Tropical storm, winter storm, hurricane ... the distinctions do not seem all that important when what one sees looks like a hurricane whipped through. Mudslides, missing roofs and trees, often hundreds of years old, have been uprooted all over the islands.

Among many others, eight of the large trees on Santa Cruz', Avenida de Anaga, alongside the the capital's port have been uprooted and in the Plaza Weyler, the gardens have been totally destroyed. A sculpture by famous artist, the late Cesar Manrique, has been reduced to scrap metal in Lanzarote. Meanwhile, in Gran Canaria, God has lost his finger.

"The famous Dedo de Dios (God's Finger), at Puerto de Las Nieves on Gran Canaria has collapsed due to strong winds." The famous landmark stood for millions of years and had been the symbol of the area.

Whilst it is sad that such things have been destroyed in one frenzied night and day, TV reports show carnage, but victims mostly dismissive of their material damages and grateful they had no lost lives to lament. Indeed, only one man died, on the Canary Islands themselves, as a direct result of the storm. The 63 year old was blown off his ladder while attempting to repair his roof in Fuerteventura.

Over 200,000 people in Santa Cruz and La Laguna in Tenerife spent a second night last night without power after pylons alongside Tenerife's main north-south highway were blown down. Local authorities are having equipment flown in from the mainland and expect to reconnect 40% of those without power today, 90% by tomorrow, Thursday and to have 100% power restored by Friday.

Over forty percent of the mobile telephone network was affected, as well as thousands of fixed phone lines cut off. We were without internet connection for a while and one of our TV stations was missing, probably due to a downed antenna. Hardly life-threatening.

The most lasting damage from the storm will be to the agricultural sector, which has suffered wholesale destruction of many crops throughout the archipelago.

Here in the north west of Tenerife, locally, at least, we were protected from the winds - which reached 200 kmh (124 mph) at Izaña, close to Mount Teide - by the Los Gigantes cliffs. Local damage is minor and restricted to small items that have been displaced. However, the roof of a new industrial building near the town of Buenavista del Norte was ripped off and in neighbouring Los Silos, the wall of a banana plantation fell on a vehicle belonging to the Local Police.

In Icod de los Viños a row of houses had their roofs blown off, but the storm merely dampened and did not wash out the day's traditional festivities for San Andres.

Experts are unable to offer conclusive proof, but locals are convinced that global warming is responsible for the abnormal weather phenomenon. Those I have spoken to hope, but do not believe, that it will be an isolated incident.

The islands have now been taken off alert and schools and work are back to normal today in almost all but the most affected areas of Santa Cruz and La Laguna.

BBC | Tropical storm batters Canaries