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Where are the victims of the La Palma volcano eruption one year on?

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By Euronews
Prefabricated homes on La Palma
Prefabricated homes on La Palma   -   Copyright  AFP   -  

A year after the Tajogaite volcano in Spain's La Palma erupted, destroying homes and businesses, many of those affected by the lava and ashes are still rebuilding their lives and looking for help.

Leticia Sanchez's house was one of the first to be buried in lava, and even now, she still feels like she is living day to day.

At first, she stayed with friends for a few months. Then in May this year, she was able to move into a prefabricated house provided by the government. Like many of the islanders, her family's life has changed completely. 

Her daughter Ayna said that when she lost her house, it was like someone had died. 

“My house was my home, the only home I had and it was gone and now we have to find another one,” she explained.

'Silent and complacent'

The eruption at the Cumbre Vieja volcanic ridge, which lasted for 83 days between September and December 2021, is the longest and most damaging volcanic activity on La Palma, on of the archipelago's eight main islands.

The lava damaged an estimated 3,000 buildings, cut off a regional highway, and created a new peninsula. It also completely destroyed Todoque, a town of some 1,300 prior to the eruption.

According to regional authorities, only five of the 121 prefabricated houses purchased by the government have been put in place for the people left homeless by the volcano.

A volcano victims' group reported that some 250 people are still living in hotels, while 150 are staying with friends and relatives. 

Juan Fernándo Pérez is the president of an association of people affected by the volcano. He is frustrated by administrative delays and asked for a loan to be able to live in a more modest house. 

Pérez describes the authorities' response in three ways: “Wanting to forget, silent and complacent.”

So far, the government has allocated more than €500 million to rebuilding, cleaning up and helping people who have lost their jobs. The total damage, estimated by the government of the Canary Islands, has been estimated at €843m.

However, people like Eulalia Villaba survive on aid. She is part of a group of people in limbo. Her flat and business are still standing, but she can not access them and has been told that the ban could last for months or even years. 

In Puerto Nao and La Bombilla areas, gases from the volcano are said to be lethal, and they are prohibited to the public.

One year after the tragic destruction caused by the lava, over 1100 people are still stuck in desolation.