Canary Island La Palma: volcano tourists marvel at ash islands

Status: 02.11.2021 03:27 a.m.

The volcano on La Palma fascinates many vacationers. Thousands have traveled to the Canary Islands to follow the outbreak. The accommodations are almost fully booked. The locals, however, worry about their cemeteries.

By Oliver Neuroth, ARD Studio Madrid

Hotels, pensions and holiday apartments on La Palma have a total of around 12,500 places for vacationers. Around 10,000 of them were booked in the past few days – an occupancy rate of 80 percent. Anyone looking for tickets for flights or ferries to La Palma at short notice came out empty-handed. Especially Spaniards from the mainland or from other Canary Islands are currently volcano tourists.

Oliver Neuroth
ARD-Studio Madrid

Fascinating clouds of smoke and lava fountains

A Spanish vacationer enjoys the opportunity to see the outbreak up close. Shuttle buses are in use and take tourists every 20 minutes from the eastern part of the island, on which the airport and the capital Santa Cruz are located, to viewpoints in the west of La Palma. From there you can watch how the volcano emits clouds of smoke and lava fountains.

One tourist says she has never seen a volcano like this. You marvel at the dark clouds of ash. However, experts currently consider this to be one of the biggest problems: The ash ensures that the air quality deteriorates from day to day. The authorities measure too much sulfur dioxide in the air, a poisonous gas that can irritate the human mucous membranes.

Residents of five localities are called upon to only leave their homes in an emergency. If you have to go outside, you should wear an FFP2 mask and protective goggles, according to the appeal.

Cemeteries are also covered in ash

The ashes now cover the whole Aridane valley on the western side of La Palma, said Stavlos Meletlidis from the National Geographic Institute on TVE. Aerial photographs show how parts of a lunar landscape resemble. Ash has settled meters high over entire stretches of land, here and there roofs of houses or cars peek out.

Particularly dramatic for many residents of the island: even cemeteries are covered with ash, and some are also enclosed by masses of lava. And that on All Saints Day, of all days, the day on which many devout Spaniards visit the graves of the deceased. “I want my sister and my father to be dug up. Not that tons of lava will soon be lying over them,” says one woman.

A man from Tazacorte says in front of the cameras that he would like to rescue the remains on his own if necessary. Even if that is a criminal offense. “I will act before the lava reaches the cemetery. And then I can no longer get to the remains of my daughter,” he says.

Fascination and suffering

For all islanders who were unable to visit their deceased relatives, the Spanish military flew over the cemetery in a helicopter and dropped flowers. All Saints’ Day of the other kind – even more painful.

It is a drama, says a volcano tourist. But at the same time it is also a spectacle. Fascination and suffering. Only rarely were both so close together as in this volcanic eruption on La Palma.

La Palma volcano: “Volcano tourists” marvel at an island full of ash

Oliver Neuroth, ARD Madrid, November 2nd, 2021 00:03

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