The volcano on La Palma comes to rest briefly – and yet remains unpredictable
At twenty to nine, Thomas Klaffke sends a message: “The volcano has taken a break.” Nine minutes later the next message: “It was just a break.” In addition, a photo from the same perspective, this time again with the huge black column of smoke. And another message: “I am sure that 10,000 people are now looking at the volcano and praying.”
If prayer helps, it helped this morning. The thick black smoke on the second photo – “That was just a cough,” says Klaffke later on the phone. The volcano does what it wants, and now it’s quiet. The network editions of the newspapers cheer. A little more relaxed than the days before, the German Klaffke, who has lived on La Palma for 17 years, made his way to the other side of the island, further away from the volcano. A friend ended up there who, like Klaffke, had to evacuate his house within reach of the volcano. But the rumbling of the mountain can also be heard here in the east of the island. Normally. Now he is holding still.
“That is the first small hope in eight days,” says Klaffke, who runs a guesthouse in western La Palma. Since the nameless volcano erupted eight days ago in the south of the Canary Island, the news has only gotten more and more dramatic. The slow-flowing lava mass has absorbed around 500 houses so far.
A church tower collapses
If more pictures were needed to demonstrate the omnipotence of the lava over human work, then it was delivered on Sunday evening: The church tower of Todoque collapsed and disappeared in seconds behind a cloud of smoke and under the advancing hot debris. The lava had paused near the church for a few days.
The east side of the island, where the main town Santa Cruz de La Palma is located and the airport is close by, does not have to worry about the lava. “But even here everything is full of ash,” reports Klaffke. On Sunday, people in Santa Cruz went out with umbrellas to protect themselves from the ashes that fell on them like a cold drizzle. Authorities recommended FFP2 masks and goggles. It is a fine sharp ash that the volcano spreads over the island. The airport closed for a few days, and long queues formed in the ferry port of holiday guests and locals who wanted to leave La Palma behind. The airport reopened on Monday, but the airlines still didn’t know whether to trust the peace.
The ashes are a curse for agriculture, they lie on the plants and on the translucent plastic tarpaulin of the banana plantations and take the light out of the perennials. But when the drama is over, the same ashes will be good fertilizer for the next season. On the other hand, nothing good can be said about lava: where it flows and finally petrifies, nothing grows for decades.
But first of all, people tremble for their houses. They do it from a distance, they are not allowed to approach their property. A private drone, whose pictures from the disaster area provided daily pictures of the state of affairs, was collected by the Guardia Civil on Wednesday, which annoys Klaffke and others very much.
In the early afternoon, Klaffke is back in his temporary accommodation with friends in El Paso in western La Palma, where he can watch the volcano. “He’s still coughing,” he says. At the moment he is less worried about his pension. The mountain is still calm. But in the middle of the conversation Klaffke escapes: “Oh, now …” Again the column of smoke rises black and mighty towards the sky. There is no end yet.