SANTA CRUZ DE LA PALMA, Canary Islands (AP) — Spain’s prime minister announced Saturday that his government will speed up already promised aid to help the thousands of residents on La Palma island whose homes and livelihoods have been destroyed by a protracted volcanic eruption.
On his fifth visit since the Atlantic island was shaken by the Sept. 19 eruption, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said that his government would pass new measures this week to help millions of euros in aid to reach those in need.
Sánchez's government had already assigned 63 million euros ($73 million) in direct aid, with another 6 million euros ($7 million) for the local farming and fishing industries impacted in the impacted area.
Lava flows from the eruption on the Cumbre Vieja volcanic ridge have damaged or destroyed more than 2,100 buildings, mostly houses and farms. The molten rock, which has covered over 850 hectares (2,100 acres), has also knocked out irrigations systems and roads in the largely agricultural area.
Though most of the island of 85,000 people off northwest Africa is unaffected by the eruption, part of the western side is facing an uncertain future.
The lava flows are still going strong over a month later, gobbling up more buildings and forming newly-born land where it has reached the sea. Locals are also feeling the toll of the nonstop roar from the volcano and the constant series of low-level earthquakes under their island.
About 7,500 residents have had to be evacuated from their homes in prompt action by authorities that has prevented the loss of any lives. Most have taken refuge with family or friends but around 430 people are in temporary lodgings provided by the local government.
The Canary Islands government is buying up empty apartments to house those whose homes have been demolished. It has also pledged to modify regulations to help rebuilding efforts once the eruption finally stops.
But the end is nowhere in sight, warned Canary Islands president Ángel Víctor Torres.
“We still have weeks ahead of us,” Torres said. “We are living through some very difficult times. (But) no resident of La Palma will have to leave the island to continue their lives.”