Volcanic mountains

La Palma residents climb mountains of volcanic ash to return home

“It’s a mess inside, it’s what’s happening with the ashes and the dust – it’s spreading everywhere. What can you do? You can’t fight nature,” says Sabino Leal Jeronimo, 80

LAS MANCHAS, Spain – Sabino Leal Jeronimo, 80, returned home to the Spanish island of La Palma in the Canary Islands for the first time in four months on Friday, January 21, after a volcanic eruption forced him to flee .

Lava currents may no longer threaten to set fire to his home in the hill town of Las Manchas, but what greeted him was still daunting – three-meter (10ft) mounds of black ash piled around his house and surrounding streets, forcing him to climb hills and work his way up dirty stairs to access his house through the back door.

“It’s a mess inside, it’s what’s happening with the ashes and the dust – it’s spreading everywhere. What can you do? You can’t fight nature,” the pensioner stoically told Reuters.

The house, in the foothills of the Cumbre Vieja volcano, is in one of several areas where residents were told last Tuesday January 18 that they could return after a three-month-old eruption was officially declared over the day of Christmas.

Jeronimo kept the faith that his house – which was built by his grandparents and where he was born – was not among the approximately 3,000 buildings that were destroyed by the rivers of molten rock.

BACK HOME. Sabino Leal, 80, a resident of Las Manchas, returns home for the first time since the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano, on the Canary island of La Palma, Spain, January 20, 2022. Photo by Borja Suarez/ Reuters

The only structural damage he sustained was the partial collapse of the garage ceiling, trapping his car underneath.

He has so far received no official help clearing the ashes but said he would get through it little by little with the help of his four children and friends. He currently lives in a hotel made available by local authorities for many of the 7,000 people forced from their homes.

Regaining a sense of normalcy, however, will take time with so much debris still blocking the roads and with water and electricity services interrupted.

“I feel good, I’m a very calm person,” smiled Jeronimo, as firefighters across the road poured water into tanks to supply homes. “But if I can step back, I’ll feel more relaxed.”

ASHES. A vehicle is seen buried in the ashes of the Cumbre Vieja volcano in the Las Manchas district of the Canary Island of La Palma, Spain January 20, 2022. Photo by Borja Suarez/Reuters

Maria Inmaculada Perez, 62, was less optimistic as she dug into the ashes around her home with her husband.

Like Jeromino, she lives in a hotel but hopes to return home in July if authorities help with the cleanup. She worries the rain will solidify the ashes and doesn’t know if it will be safe enough for her 84-year-old mother, who lived next door, to come home.

“It’s so painful to see the house like this,” she said. “We need help. The more ash we remove, the more we find. It makes us feel very helpless.

Authorities in La Palma have warned residents to clean up the ashes by wearing masks and protective clothing and to avoid entering basements where toxic gases could still be trapped. They offered help to vulnerable populations and people whose homes are unstable. – Rappler.com