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La Palma's Cumbre Vieja volcano continues to spew lava and ash La Palma's Cumbre Vieja volcano continues to spew lava and ash  (AFP or licensors)

Pope prays for residents of La Palma island after volcanic eruption

Pope Francis appeals for residents of La Palma who have fled their homes following a volcanic eruption, with local authorities struggling to bring back some sense of normality to the Spanish Canary island.

By Stefan J. Bos

Pope Francis prayed on Sunday for people on the Spanish Canary island of La Palma, where a volcanic eruption on 19 September has forced many residents to flee their homes.

The Pope urged everyone to pray for the displaced and rescue workers through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, who is venerated on the island under the title Our Lady of the Snows.

Continued disruption

La Palma's erupting volcano continues to roar. But authorities noticed on Sunday that lava flows remained slow. The island's government said there had been "no significant incidents" with the volcano since Saturday when part of the crater collapsed and another river of lava emerged.

It was the main reason why the airport on the Spanish island at least briefly reopened. The Spanish airport authority said that La Palma airport was operational again after closing Saturday due to a heavy fall of volcanic ash that coated the runway.

People had been waiting there to leave the troubled island.

“We were supposed to leave today, but our flight was canceled," a passenger said. "And we have to wait till Monday. That means more nights here, and the implications are that we can't get back to work," she added. 

The airport closure led to long lines at the island's port to catch ferries off the island. Tourists say they feel sorry for those being left behind.

"We think it's horrific for the people living here," one of those waiting said. "We didn't enjoy our journey. We think it's terrible what's happened here," he stressed.

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Collecting belongings

Officials have now allowed some evacuated residents to collect belongings from their homes. "It's not going well on the island because of this tragedy," a resident noticed. "We have to help each other. We are all very sad."

On La Palma, part of Spain's volcanic Canary Islands off northwest Africa, the volcano erupted on 19 September. Authorities say the prompt evacuations of more than 6,000 people helped avoid or limit casualties on this island of about 85,000 residents.

But many have lost everything they own as hundreds of properties were destroyed. Farmers rushed to save crops of bananas, avocados, and grapes before the lava reaches plantations - which are rich with volcanic, fertile soil - on which many islanders depend for their livelihoods.

This month's eruption is the first on La Palma in half a century. And scientists warn that the eruption could last for up to three months.

Yet, amid the misery, people on social media dubbed one residence a "miracle house."

Footage showed it miraculously escaped the lava flow, which had destroyed everything else in its path.

26 September 2021, 16:42