Spain’s prime minister says La Palma will be rebuilt as lava flow continues

By Wynne Davis NPR

Spain’s prime minister vowed to rebuild the country’s Canary Island of La Palma, following a volcanic eruption that began two weeks ago and continues to spew ash and lava.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced an aid package of 206 million euros, approximately $238 million, on Sunday during his third visit to the island since the eruptions started on Sept. 19, according to the Associated Press.

“We are facing a test of resistance, because we don’t know when the volcano’s eruption will end,” Sánchez said in a press conference. “But citizens should know that when it does end, the government of Spain will be there to help with the enormous task of rebuilding La Palma and offer a horizon of prosperity.”

Two additional fissures nearly 50 feet apart opened up on Friday, sending more lava headed toward the ocean, the AP reported.

The activity coming from the Cumbre Vieja volcano does not show signs of slowing down any time soon. The Canary Islands Volcanology Institute has been monitoring the eruptions and noted on Twitter on Sunday morning that explosive activity was intensifying and by afternoon, effusive activity had increased.

La Palma government officials have continued to monitor the air quality around the eruptions and say they did see an increase in sulfur dioxide levels after the latest fissures opened, but it wasn’t a present health threat to residents, according to the AP.

Earlier sea-bound lava spills prompted officials on the island to tell residents to seal their doors and windows to block the toxic gas that’s created when molten lava hits the ocean.

More than 900 houses have been destroyed by lava flow, according to the European Union’s Earth-monitoring program Copernicus.

Of the nearly 85,000 people who live in La Palma, more than 6,000 of them have been evacuated since the eruptions began. No deaths or injuries have been reported as a result of the eruptions so far.

Prime Minister Sánchez said he would focus on finding solutions for those who lost their homes, rebuilding agricultural infrastructure and destroyed urban environments, as well as relaunching tourism and making sure transportation across the island is possible once the volcanic activity ceases.

Prior to this year, the last eruption on the island took place in 1971 and lasted for more than three weeks.

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