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La Palma volcano eruption may be over after three months

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By AP  with Euronews
FILE - Ash covers the streets and houses in Las Manchas village as lava flows from the volcano, on the Canary island of La Palma, Spain, Dec. 6 2021.
FILE - Ash covers the streets and houses in Las Manchas village as lava flows from the volcano, on the Canary island of La Palma, Spain, Dec. 6 2021.   -   Copyright  Emilio Morenatti/AP Photo

A volcanic eruption on the Spanish island of La Palma may be over after almost three months of daily activity.

Scientists say the Cumbre Vieja volcano was silent on Monday evening after around 36 hours of negligible activity.

The lull might indicate the end of explosions, earthquakes, lava rivers, and toxic gases on the island.

The Canary Islands government said in a statement that “volcanic activity has fallen to almost nothing,” although some wisps of white smoke floated from the crater on Wednesday morning.

"There is a high probability that this is the end," said Alexis Schwartz, a volcanologist at GeoTenerife.

"The overall activity of the volcano has been decreasing for the last few weeks, and we were expecting the volcano's life to end sooner rather than later," he told Euronews.

Low and sustained levels of activity must be observed for 10 days for scientists to formally declare the end of the eruption, according to María José Blanco, a volcanologist and spokeswoman for Spain’s National Geographic Institute.

The eruption, which began September 19, is the longest on record on La Palma and has been a milestone for islanders, many of whom live from farming and tourism.

The volcanic Canary Islands are also a popular European vacation destination due to their mild climate.

No injuries or deaths have been directly linked to the eruption, and life has continued largely as normal on most of the island's 80,000 residents.

However, several thousand people were forced to abandon their homes, and a section of La Palma's southwestern side is severely damaged.

Fiery molten rock flowing from Cumbre Vieja down toward the sea has also destroyed around 3,000 buildings on La Palma.

Meanwhile, fields of thick, black hardened lava have entombed banana plantations, ruined irrigation systems, and cut off roads.

The hardened lava covers around 1,200 hectares, according to data collated by the Canary Islands volcanic emergency unit, PEVOLCAN.

The authority also said the island had grown over 48 hectares due to new rocky deltas on its Atlantic Ocean coastline.

For some locals, relief at the weakening eruption was tempered by frustration at government promises of help they say has failed to materialise.

“Being able to see the sun properly for the first time in nearly three months, sleeping at night without tremors, totally changes the picture," said Francisco Javier López, a 61-year-old resident of the village of Todoque.

“But the future remains bleak,” he added.

López lost his home of the past 30 years during the first few days of the eruption and says he is living in an overpriced rented apartment in a nearby village.

The future of his paragliding business, which employed him and his wife, also evaporated as lava buried the takeoff and landing strips at the top of the Cumbre Vieja mountain range.

López complained that despite pledges of free accommodation, subsidies and financial aid from national, regional and local officials, almost nothing has actually reached the hands of La Palma residents affected by the volcano.

“The volcano has taken away our houses, including our past and memories,” he told The Associated Press. “But politicians are taking away our future and our hope.”

Click on the player above to watch the full interview with Alexis Schwartz.