Health

Evacuation under the imminent threat of lava: “I am devastated. I don't know where we are going to go with two girls and two older people ”

“This is the Civil Guard. Voluntarily vacate homes until 19 hours. Meeting place, the Canarian fighting pavilion Camilo León ”. The SUV of the armed corps incessantly patrols the main street of the La Laguna neighborhood, in Los Llanos de Aridane. As they pass along the entire street, faces of anguish, neighbors who do not stop entering and leaving their houses to get into cars, vans and trucks what they consider most valuable: mattresses, refrigerators, motorcycles, televisions, chairs … And in the background, the incessant roars and the ever closer fumaroles of the volcano.

The Volcanic Emergency Plan of the Canary Islands (Pevolca) has decreed at noon on Tuesday the evacuation of the almost 800 neighbors who resided in this enclave to which the lava is approaching with a slow but unstoppable pace. It is the same neighborhood that the Kings chose a little less than three weeks ago to hear from a group of spokespersons for those affected the story of the disaster experienced during the first days of the eruption. Twenty days later, the collapse of part of the volcanic cone and the largest outflow of lava have caused the last evacuation since the La Palma volcano came to life in the past 19 September.

Enrique González, from 46 years, he is on a truck, evicting with his partner the house of his aunt of 78 years. He already left the neighborhood a few days ago. “I saw how the lava washed away Todoque. That already hurt me because I know everyone there. Now imagine how much this hurts, to see that my lifelong neighborhood is going to disappear. ”

“ This is the second time I have been evicted in less than two weeks ”. This is Marisol Marcano, who is 36 years old, while she takes care of one of her two youngest daughters in the door of his sister-in-law’s house. “I am devastated inside, I do not know where we are going with two girls and two elderly people,” she declares in anguish.

The La Palma volcano, far from calming down, has gained destructive vigor in recent years three days. The fall of the northern part of the cone has enhanced the discharge of magma. The meeting point for evicted people is the Camilo León Fighting Pavilion, in the heart of the city. From there, a triage will be carried out and they will be referred to the El Fuerte barracks (on the outskirts of Santa Cruz de La Palma) or to the hotel that serves as a hostel in the municipality of Fuencaliente.

At the door of the pavilion is Noelia García, mayor of the largest municipality on the island. The neighbors who are arriving with their loaded trucks do not hesitate to hug her and cry inconsolably. “Right now we have to accompany the families and give shelter to all those who have no other possibility,” he explains. “The easy thing is to take off and put on. It is hard, but there is no other. The difficult, if not impossible, is to recover what the lava has taken. ”

Unos hombres cargan enseres en una camioneta en la localidad de La Laguna.
Some men load belongings into a truck in the town of La Laguna. Miguel Calero (EFE)

One of these victims who leaves the pavilion is María Candelaria Rodríguez, a resident of La Laguna and owner, along with her brother, from a pizzeria. “The two of us, at the moment, we don’t know if we are going to friends’ houses. But we are calmer because my parents have been taken to the hotel in Fuencaliente. They are very old, they have 80 and 84 years, and they are very disoriented, very worried. ”

A Red Cross team has been installed in the field to help with the identification of the evacuees and, on everything, give them psychological help. “Almost four weeks have passed,” recalls Laura Marrero, psychologist responsible for the Emergency Response Team (ERIE) for psychosocial intervention. “And when it seemed that the situation was under control, now the volcano seems to be reactivated,” he laments. “Although people have a lot of resilience and endurance, this now yes, now not ends up destroying anyone’s nerves. ”

There are currently several relatively active casts. The first, which according to the Pevolca spokesman, Miguel Ángel Morcuende, “has lost steam and has no lava contribution”, is the one that has surrounded the Todoque Mountain to the north and south. There is another wash that is coming down with power and that runs parallel to the main one “causing significant damage in the cultivation and residential areas” and which is located about 200 meters from the sea and threatens to create a new lava delta (fajana). The third lava tongue, which has been detached from the previous one, is the one that has caused this new evacuation.

The residents of number 3 de la Cruz Chica street, just a few meters from La Laguna church, they go up to the roof to say goodbye to their house. From the street, a Civil Guard patrolman warns again that at seven in the afternoon they will have to vacate the house. They check the clock. They only have ten minutes left. They look for the last time towards the volcano and make guesses about the path that the river of lava can follow.

“Look”, says a woman, “behind that yellow house is where the first one entered laundry to my uncle’s warehouse and then to the banana tree ”. There is no drama in his voice, only exhaustion, resignation. Going down the stairs, the open doors of their apartments reveal the disorder of the flight.

During the last hours, they have become thieves of their own belongings, searching again and again in the drawers and closets so as not to leave anything of value behind, dismantling the beds and stacking the chairs to lower them together into a van about to leave. They close the gate of the building. On the corner, between the pharmacy and the gas station, the Civil Guard is dismantling the control that in recent weeks prohibited entry into the exclusion zone. From seven o’clock, La Laguna will also be in a forbidden zone. At the corner, an armored van takes the flows and sensitive documentation from the La Caixa branch. Just a few meters away, half a dozen faithful remain praying in the Church. The volcano continues to gain ground.

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