Spain promises help for volcano damage on La Palma as lava still flows

Spanish authorities have pledged to speed up delivering aid to the volcano-hit island of La Palma in the Canaries, as destruction continues over one month after eruptions began.

The Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma.
The Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma. Photo: JORGE GUERRERO / AFP

Part of a volcano that has been erupting for over a month collapsed on Saturday, spelling further disaster for La Palma, a Canary Island off northwest Africa.

In response, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Saturday said the government would speed up aid to those most impacted, mainly the agriculture and fishing industries, according to reports.

Since the eruption started on September 19th, lava has covered almost 900 hectares of land, destroying over 2,000 buildings and many banana plantations.

More than 7,000 people have been displaced, while so far no-one has been killed by the continuous lava flows.

READ ALSO: Volcanic eruption on Spain’s La Palma hits one-month mark

“At the cabinet meeting next Tuesday we are going to make a budgetary modification to accelerate the arrival of economic resources for both the Employment Plan and aid for the entire agriculture and fishing sector,” Sanchez told reporters at a press conference.

The Canary Islands Volcanology Institute said that part of the main cone had collapsed on Saturday morning, while tweeting the latest developments of the volcano with video footage.

The continuing updates show that lava continues to destroy swathes of land, with no sign of stopping.

After a month of continual eruptions accompanied by minor earthquakes, geologists say they have no idea how much longer it will last.

READ ALSO: Who let the dogs out? Mystery disappearance grips Spain as La Palma volcano rages on

The volcano was putting out some 10,000 tonnes of sulphur dioxide emissions per day, and to start being considered “extinct” it should emit 400 tonnes or less per day, David Calvo, an expert with the Involcan volcanology institute, told reporters.

This is the Atlantic island’s third volcanic eruption in a century, the last one taking place in 1971.

Prime Minister Sanchez has expressed his gratitude to all those working to contain the eruption.

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Police operation targets illegal water tapping in Spain

More than 130 people were arrested or placed under investigation for illegal water tapping last year, Spain’s Guardia Civil police said on Wednesday following a huge operation.

Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park”
Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park” in Andalusia. Photo: CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

During the year-long operation, “133 people were arrested or investigated for extracting water through more than 1,533 illegal infrastructure devices”, the police’s environmental unit said in a statement.

A similar operation in 2019 had targeted 107 people.

Spain is one of the European countries most at risk from the impact of drought caused by global warming, scientists say.

Water usage issues are often at the heart of heated political debates in Spain where intensive agriculture plays an important role in the economy.

Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park” in the southern Andalusia region, one of Europe’s largest wetlands and a Unesco World Heritage bird sanctuary.

They were also operating in “in the basins of Spain’s main rivers”.

In Doñana, police targeted 14 people and 12 companies for the illegal tapping of water for irrigation, a police spokesman said.

Ecologists regularly raise the alarm about the drying up of marshes and lagoons in the area, pointing the finger at nearby plantations, notably growing strawberries, which are irrigated by illegally-dug wells.

“The overexploitation of certain aquifers for many reasons, mainly economic, constitutes a serious threat to our environment,” the Guardia Civil said.

The European Court of Justice rapped Spain over the knuckles in June for its inaction in the face of illegal water extraction in Donana which covers more than 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) and is home to more than 4,000 species, including the critically endangered Iberian lynx.

According to the government’s last official estimate, which dates back to 2006, there were more than half a million illegal wells in use.

But in a 2018 study, Greenpeace estimated there were twice as many, calculating that the quantity of stolen water was equivalent to that used by 118 million people — two-and-a-half times the population of Spain.

Spanish NGO SEO/Birdlife also on Wednesday raised the alarm about the “worrying” state of Spain’s wetlands.