The Malaga firefighters at the airport before setting off to La Palma on Sunday. / SUR

Malaga firefighters travel to La Palma to assist in volcano emergency operation

The first contingent of seven travelled to the Canary Islands this week to support the clean-up and aid efforts

IRENE QUIRANTE MALAGA.

A contingent of firefighters from Malaga left for La Palma on Sunday to help with the volcano emergency operation.

The seven members of the Provincial Fire Consortium (CPB) did not hesitate to volunteer t o support the emergency services on the island, where the volcano has been erupting for more than 70 days.

Before their departure they said that what worries them most is not the complications from the volcanic activity, nor the rain that had increased the risk of landslides.

"When volunteers were asked to go and support colleagues there, about 50 people immediately put themselves forward"

"The hardest thing will be the social situation we are going to find, the desolation of those who have lost everything," said Francisco Soriano, technical inspector of the Malaga consortium.

Theirs is the first unit from the province to travel to the Canary Islands, with a second group following on 18 December.

The aid is the result of an agreement with the authorities in La Palma through which the Malaga brigade has committed to send a group of firefighters for a week every month, to support the rescue and clean-up tasks.

"When volunteers were asked to go and support our colleagues there, about 50 people immediately put themselves forward. That is worth recognising," said Soriano, proud of his team.

On this occasion, the technical inspector will accompany six other firefighters: María García, Antonio Manuel Cobos, Salvador Olivas, Joaquín Molina, Marta Soria and Jair Pereira.

"We face this challenge with enthusiasm and are keen to work to help the people of La Palma," said Molina, sergeant at the Coín fire station.

"We will be there ready to assist with any type of rescue: animals, people... we will intervene in traffic accidents and fires, as we would do at any fire station," Soriano said on Wednesday at a pre-trip meeting.

Following their arrival, Soriano pointed out, "We have just arrived and we have already been warned that the atmosphere is at a dangerous level due to the high rate of sulphur dioxide in the air."

Carbon monoxide is also being detected inside the island.

The rains, which made their first appearance in the Canary Islands this week since the beginning of the volcanic activity on 19 September, also worsened the situation on the island.

"The weight of the ash is expected to double as a result of rainfall. This makes the risk of collapse of places where the ash is deposited much greater," Soriano continued.

None of these circumstances intimidate the firefighters.

"It is going to be an unusual situation because we are facing a volcanic eruption, and that is not part of our day-to-day, but as firefighters we are perfectly trained and qualified to face any type of situation," said the consortium's technical inspector.

The firefighters travelling to La Palma are no strangers to rescue and relief work, having intervened in disasters such as the Beirut port explosion in 2020, the 2017 floods in Peru and the 2015 Nepal earthquake.

"When we go to these operations we do our best. And it is on the way back when we start thinking about it; while we are there we are immersed in work, but it is on the way back that we process the tragic situations that we have seen," said María García.