Spain’s King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia today visited the Canary Island of La Palma, to meet some of the local residents who have been left homeless after the Cabeza de Vaca volcano erupted on Sunday, sending huge tongues of lava flowing down the hillside and destroying everything in their path.
The monarchs spoke to the evacuated residents in El Fuerte barracks, where they have been offered shelter by the authorities. Accompanying them was Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who had just arrived from a lightning visit to New York where he spoke to the United Nations General Assembly. Also present was the regional premier of the Canary Islands, Ángel Víctor Torres, and the head of the island council, Mariano Hernández Zapata.
The king and queen mostly spoke to older evacuees and those with limited mobility. One of the older gentlemen did not initially recognize the monarch, who lowered his face mask for a moment to help the man identify him.
From El Fuerte, the Spanish king and queen were due to travel to the island council headquarters to attend the daily meeting of the team of experts monitoring the phenomenon, the Volcano Risk Prevention Plan (Pevolca), and will later visit the command center for the entire emergency situation, which is located close to the eruption site. The monarchs will also have another meeting with more residents affected by the volcano, possibly in the municipality of Los Llanos de Aridane.
The lava that has spewed out of Cumbre Vieja on the Canary Islands – a Spanish archipelago located off the northwestern coast of Africa – has now covered 166 hectares of land and has destroyed 350 properties, according to the latest data from the European observation system Copernicus. More than 5,700 have been evacuated from their homes and are one of the priorities for the authorities.
The Canary Islands’ chief of public works, transportation and housing, Sebastián Franquis, announced on Thursday that his department is organizing the acquisition of 257 newly built homes on the island of La Palma in order to deal with the housing problem faced by the hundreds of families who have been left without a place to live due to the eruption. A further 23 homes from a new development in the municipality of El Paso will also be used for the same means.
English version by Simon Hunter.