85 Days Later, La Palma’s Volcano Has Officially Stopped Erupting

85 Days Later, La Palma’s Volcano Has Officially Stopped Erupting
Aerial view of the Cumbre Vieja volcano, in Tacande, on the Canary Island of La Palma on Dec. 16, 2021. (Photo: Jorge Guerrero / AFP, Getty Images)

After nearly three months of wreaking destruction on La Palma with its lava, ash, and earthquakes, in recent days the Cumbre Vieja volcano fell silent on the island. Experts officially certified that the eruption was over on Christmas Day. Some media outlets, and even Spain’s president, said it was the volcano’s version of a holiday gift. Yet, it’s difficult to think of anything that has caused such tragedy as being the gift-giving type.

In reality, Cumbre Vieja’s activity ceased 10 days ago, igniting feelings of cautious hope among the residents who experienced the volcano’s longest eruption in 375 years. However, scientists warned that they could not certify the eruption as being over until volcanic activity stopped for a period of 10 days. At 3 p.m. local time on Saturday, Spain’s National Geographic Institute gave the official confirmation.

Cumbre Vieja’s latest chapter was written. The eruption, which began on Sept. 19, had ended on Dec. 13 and lasted for 85 days and 8 hours.

“What I want to say today can be said with just four words: The eruption is over,” said Julio Pérez, the Canary Islands’ regional security chief, according to Reuters.

This aerial picture shows a house covered with lava and ashes following the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano in Las Manchas on the Canary Island of La Palma on Dec. 14, 2021. (Photo: Jorge Guerrero / AFP, Getty Images) This aerial picture shows a house covered with lava and ashes following the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano in Las Manchas on the Canary Island of La Palma on Dec. 14, 2021. (Photo: Jorge Guerrero / AFP, Getty Images)

Nonetheless, the end of the eruption doesn’t necessarily signify the end of some of the dangers associated with the event, the National Geographic Institute said in a statement. Spanish authorities declared that the emergency wasn’t over, Spanish daily El País reported, pointing out that there were still lava flows on the island with high temperatures and volcanic gases.

María José Blanco, the director of the National Geographic Institute on the Canary Islands, explained that all indicators suggested that Cumbre Vieja had run out of energy but didn’t rule out a future reactivation.

Although the end of the eruption was welcomed by residents on and off La Palma, it also put the volcano’s destruction in sharp focus and highlighted the immense recovery effort that is needed. Cumbre Vieja covered about 3,009 acres of land (1,218 hectares) with lava, 914 acres (370 hectares) of which were crops. The volcano destroyed 1,676 buildings and buried 45.8 miles (73.8 kilometers) of highways.

An excavator removes ashes from a street covered in lava and ashes following the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano in Las Manchas on the Canary Island of La Palma on Dec. 14, 2021. (Photo: Jorge Guerrero / AFP, Getty Images) An excavator removes ashes from a street covered in lava and ashes following the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano in Las Manchas on the Canary Island of La Palma on Dec. 14, 2021. (Photo: Jorge Guerrero / AFP, Getty Images)

Over the last three months, more than 7,000 people have been evacuated from the island. Of the evacuees, more than 2,300 have been directly affected by the eruption. About 500 of those affected are living in hotels and don’t have a home anymore. Meanwhile, other neighbourhoods are filled with people living in motor homes or plastic tents.

Spain’s government has said it will send approximately $US453 ($627) million to help La Palma with reconstruction, aid some residents and businesses say is slow to get to where it’s needed. Authorities are working on making sure areas are safe and have essential services before they allow residents to return.

It won’t happen fast, Rubén Fernández, interim director of the Canary Islands’ Volcano Emergency Plan, told El País, but the end of the eruption was the first step.

“There’s a lot to do,” Fernández said.