Solidarity exceeds management capacity on La Palma

“We don’t need you to send more help in the form of clothes or belongings.” The technical director of the Volcanic Emergency Plan of the Canary Islands (Pevolca), Miguel Ángel Morcuende, made this appeal last Sunday to the entire population of the islands and the rest of Spain who has launched to help more than 5. 600 evacuated by the La Palma volcano. “They cause us logistical problems, we have no way to manage it and, in addition, they take up space on the ships that arrive on the island that can be used to transport security and emergency services.”

Javier Senent, president of the Spanish Red Cross: “We have many people within the Red Cross team itself who are also beneficiaries of our aid efforts

More than two weeks have passed since the lava began to cover part of the territory of La Palma and solidarity, like the volcano from which the magma gushes out, continues to exhibit its strength. Proof of this is the incessant activity that is recorded daily in the sports center of Los Llanos de Aridane, the most populated municipality on the island and in which the largest number of affected people is registered. “Here we are 500 working day by day in shifts. Not only from La Palma, but also many people from Tenerife and Gran Canaria. We do everything, clothes, food, household goods, psychological care … ”, explains Jacob García, one of the volunteers. García’s family has lost, engulfed by lava, a banana plantation that for years was the family’s livelihood. “It would have been a miracle if he was saved,” he admits resignedly.

The neighboring municipality of El Paso has opened a list for citizens who wish to cast a cable to sign up. So far, the list reaches 1. 200 entries of a municipality of 7. 500 inhabitants, although they are some 250 people who currently help with livestock, clothing, household goods and others. “We are trying to order the donations,” admitted its mayor, Sergio Rodríguez, recently, who confesses that the aid and solidarity “has overwhelmed him.” “The contributions come both from local companies and, above all, from individuals.” Rodríguez, like a good part of his fellow citizens, has been evacuated from his home from the first night.

Centro de atención a los afectados por el volcán ubicado en el pabellón Severo Rodríguez, en la localidad de Los Llanos, el pasado día 3 de octubre.
Center of attention to those affected by the volcano located in the Severo Rodríguez pavilion, in the town of Los Llanos, on October 3. PACO PUENTES (EL PAÍS)

“Young people have turned their heads,” explains the Councilor for Health and Equality of the Los Llanos City Council, Elena Pais. “It has been a major job: we have had to separate the clothes that came to us according to type, size and whether it is for men or women.” A visit to the pavilion, in fact, shows the organization, similar to what can be found in a department store. On the track is Sonia Domínguez, of 30 years old, who has come with her mother and seven-year-old son to collect some belongings helped by a volunteer: “I still don’t know anything about my house, and we almost left with what we were wearing.”

Solidarity aid also comes from organizations consolidated. The presence of the red vests of the Red Cross is constant in El Paso and Los Llanos. Either at a checkpoint distributing water to neighbors who wait their turn in the sun to enter their homes, or at the advanced command post carrying out assistance tasks. The institution has displaced some 200 people, many from the island of The Palm. “We have many people within the team itself, technicians and volunteers, who are also beneficiaries of our aid efforts,” explains Javier Senent, president of the Spanish Red Cross. “Some of them have seen their properties affected, or their families have been affected, but they are always at the foot of the canyon,” he adds.

The Red Cross was in charge of giving the first assistance the displaced people in the El Fuerte barracks, where some 600 were transferred urgently on the night of the eruption. It is also in charge of caring for the little more than 200 affected who live in the Teneguía Princess hotel, in the municipality of Fuencaliente (to the south, where the Teneguía volcano is located, until now the last to erupt in Spain). “We are in an acute phase,” explains Senent, “we have created a portfolio of projects, and as circumstances progress we have prepared volunteer projects in terms of relief, social inclusion, health or the environment.”

A good part of the organization’s volunteers also need attention, says Senent. “We have to work very hard so that they don’t fall apart in some way, so that they don’t collapse, giving them certain breaks. But you have to do it very carefully, you cannot remove them from service from the beginning because it is positive to be busy so as not to think about the disaster and feel useful. ”

Miguel Ángel Morcuende has insisted at all times that the real help that is needed is donations of money. Only the Cabildo de la Palma has received in these two weeks 4, 18 million euros, which is added to the 1, 28 million that has accumulated the account opened by the Los Llanos consistory in the 16 days that It has open contributions from both individuals and companies and “entities from all over the world.”

Help regardless of the personal situation of each one. That is the slogan that moves Luis. He has lost his home in Todoque. But that does not prevent him from spending his days at the sports center helping to transport boxes and belongings, and attend to the victims, especially the elderly, who continue to arrive in a state of shock. Now he is having a coffee and a roast leg sandwich (typical dish of the islands with pig’s feet) and soft cheese. “Look, this is what it is. I have it assumed, and the best thing is to throw pa’lante and help others. ”

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