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La Palma Tajogaite Volcano one year on

Erupción del volcán Cumbre Vieja - Mirador de Tajuya (La Palma) - 15-11-2021 
Image: 
Banco de Imágenes Geológicas, Some rights reserved

One year after the Tajogaite Volcano erupted, almost 200 of those affected are still living in hotels because they have no other place to stay.

The worst and longest eruption in the history of La Palma has forced the mobilization of a volume of public resources and at a speed unprecedented in the history of natural disasters in Spain, to face an enormous task of reconstruction that has done no more than begin. One year after the volcano erupted and nine months since it ceased, almost 200 affected people continue to live in hotels because they have no other place to stay and the sectors that drive the La Palma economy, agriculture and tourism, are still debating how they can recover.

The Volcano

DURATION: 85 days and eight hours of eruption, from September 19 to December 13, 2021, the longest the island has suffered since the fifteenth century and the third in the history of the Canary Islands, after Timanfaya, in Lanzarote (2,055 days, between 1730 and 1736), and the submarine Tagoro volcano, in El Hierro (147 days, between 2011 and 2012).

VOLUME EMITTED: The volcano ejected 217 million cubic meters of materials, according to the latest 3D cartography carried out by the National Institute of Volcanology of Italy and its Canarian counterpart, Involcán, without counting the material deposited under the sea in the two deltas that formed from the lava on the coast of Tazacorte. In other words, it emitted as much material as the six that preceded it in the history of La Palma together, at an average of 27 cubic meters per second (m3/s), a rate that on some days approached 60 m3/s. If those 217 million m3 were water, it would be enough to reach all the reservoirs in provinces such as Álava, Castellón, La Rioja or Teruel.

THE CONE: Occupies an area of ​​0.6 km2 (60 hectares), on which 36.5 million cubic meters of materials were deposited, which raised a mountain 187 meters high in what was until then a hollow of the west slope of Cumbre Vieja. The summit of the volcano is located at an altitude of 1,121 meters.

THE LAVA FLOWS: Lava covered 11.8 km2 (1,180 hectares), 1.69% of the surface of the island. That tremendous slab of molten rock that is slowly cooling from the 1,140 degrees that it reached, covers six kilometres from the cone to the coast, with a maximum width of three kilometres, and has an extension that would almost be enough to bury the city of Melilla (12.3 Km2). It is made up of 177.6 million cubic meters of materials, the average thickness of which exceeds 15 metres, but which at some points reaches 65 metres, enough to completely cover stadiums such as the Camp Nou (48 m) or the Santiago Bernabéu (45 m).

THE DELTAS: Upon reaching the sea, the lava formed two deltas on the coast of Tazacorte that add up to 48 hectares of surface, it is the youngest land in Spain. The largest delta, 43.4 hectares, would fit the entire Vatican State. Below is one of the most sought-after beaches for surf lovers in the Canary Islands, Los Guirres, which has gone down in history, but the sea has already formed other small, still virgin sandbanks and life begins to colonize the submerged rocks.

The Consequences

- More than 7,000 people were evacuated from their homes, many of them at least during the three months that the eruption lasted. It is 8.2% of the population of La Palma.

- 2,329 people lived in the perimeter covered by lava or ash, 7.1% of the census of the three municipalities that cross the lava flows, El Paso, Los Llanos de Aridane and Tazacorte.

- 1,676 buildings were destroyed or damaged, including 1,345 homes, 180 farm buildings, 75 industrial buildings, 44 leisure and hotel facilities and 16 buildings for public use, such as schools or churches, among others. Entire neighbourhoods, like Todoque, no longer exist and others, like La Laguna, have rivers of rock in the middle of their streets

- 73.8 kilometres of highways and urban roads were buried, the vast majority (65%) in Los Llanos de Aridane.

- 370 hectares of crops affected, including 228 of bananas, 68 of vineyards and 27 of avocado.

- 982 million euros in damage of all kinds, to public and private property, according to the estimate of the Government of the Canary Islands.

Reconstruction

- 565.54 million euros in aid for La Palma already delivered by the central government with the collaboration of the Canarian Executive, with 7,091 files initiated at the request of the victims, 96% already signed, according to the latest balance, published on Friday.

- 213.47 million euros: amount paid by the Insurance Compensation Consortium for damages in La Palma until July 28, out of a total of 234 million requested. 182.79 million correspond to homes, 22.44 million to shops, hotels, offices and other types of real estate and almost one million to vehicles.

- 139 homes and modular houses bought by the Government of the Canary Islands, available to those who lost their homes and 488 grants for the payment of rents granted.

- 13.64 million euros received by the Cabildo de La Palma in public and private donations for those affected. 7.22 million have been delivered to 2,941 families who lost their homes or cannot live in them (in amounts that depend on the number of members) and 6.34 million distributed among 634 families at a rate of 10,000 euros each. The Cabildo has covered 420,000 euros with its own funds.

- A provisional road crosses the lava flow from La Laguna to Las Norias above the lava, with important restrictions (only during the day, at 20 km/h and with the prohibition of stopping or getting out of the vehicle, because there are temperatures of up to 600 degrees in the surroundings). Its four kilometres avoid a two-hour detour (80 km) through the summit, Santa Cruz and Fuencaliente to go from the neighbourhoods that were north of the lava to those in the south.


But ...

- 180 people are still living in hotels a year later, more than half of them (108) residents of Puerto Naos and La Bombilla, the two centres evicted by high concentrations of CO2 and other volcanic gases, at levels that can be lethal. To them must be added an undetermined number of people who reside with relatives or in other types of accommodation, such as caravans.

- 93 children have lost their usual school: 44 are students from two centres that disappeared under the lava (CEIP Todoque and Los Campitos) and 49 from the one that has been rendered useless in Puerto Naos (CEIP María Milagros Acosta). They are grouped in a provisional centre in Los Llanos de Aridane. CEIP = Colegio de Educación Infantil y Primaria (College of Infant and Primary Education).

- The price of housing has skyrocketed as a result of all the lost properties and the impact of the large number of affected people who are looking for a rental or a purchase at the same time. There are no official data, but portals such as Idelista.com estimate that purchase prices have risen in the last year by 21.4% in Los Llanos de Aridane, 20.1% in Tazacorte and 24.7% in the capital of the island, Santa Cruz. This is four times what they have risen in the Canary Islands as a whole, according to the same source (5.7%). And rents also feel the same pressure.

- Some 4,000 tourist beds are off the market due to security restrictions due to the presence of gases in Puerto Naos, although the buildings where they are located did not suffer physical damage. La Palma has about 11,000 operational beds left as a result.

- Hundreds of owners do not know if they will be able to recover the farms and houses that were buried under the lava. Those lands being theirs, but how to get to them, what use can the give them and what will they be used for, are questions that still emerge in every meeting of those affected.

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