The Cumbre Vieja volcano moves into a second day without significant activity. / AFP

La Palma residents hold their breath as the island's volcano falls eerily silent

For the second consecutive day there has been no significant emission of lava or gases and the earthquakes have all but stopped

J.L.A.

Residents on the Canary island of La Palma are holding their breath waiting for the volcanologists to declare the end of the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano.

For the second consecutive day there has been an eery silence on the island with no significant emission of lava or sulphur gases and the earthquakes have all but stopped.

However, the scientists are cautious about declaring the end of the eruption. And the reason for such caution is understandable. It is not the first time that the volcano has remained calm since it started spewing lava some three months ago, although those lapses had not lasted more than a few hours. This time the lack of almost all seismicity has lasted two days.

According to the latest data collected by the European Copernicus satellite project, the lava runoffs from the Cumbre Vieja volcano have devastated 1,237.3 hectares of land and also destroyed up to 2,988 buildings, including homes, commercial, agricultural and industrial facilities.

Years to cool down

The mantle formed by lava has a maximum width of 3.5km and covers about 48 hectares. The surface is currently extremely dangerous and it will take years to cool down. Another risk is that the emission of gases continues from the open vents on the land, something that also prevents the return of those evacuated from homes that have been saved.

The experts monitoring the volcano insist that we must wait, at the earliest, until Christmas Day for them to declare the eruption at an end, the longest in history in the Canary Islands, with 88 days of activity.

Government aid

Residents also holding their breath for when promised government aid will begin to reach them. To date they have had to rely on support from the public and small contributions made by the Canary Islands regional government.

Meanwhile Spain’s PM, Pedro Sánchez, announced from Brussels a new package of measures to support the reconstruction and recovery of the island of La Palma. He explained in a statement, in which journalists were not allowed to ask questions, housing aid will be doubled from the limit of 30,000 to 60,000 euros, which will be "complementary" to other funds that are being offered by other administrations as well as insurance companies. To this will be added "a package of 17.5 million euros for aid to small and medium-sized companies and also for the relaunch of the tourism sector" on the island.

In addition, fishermen "will not have to contribute to the Social Security system while they cannot fish" and the repayment of debts will also be extended until 2 May, 2022. Finally, Sánchez announced a 12-million-euro increase, up to 30 million euros, of "direct aid to farmers and livestock owners and for the promotion of products from the sectors" of La Palma.