Abián Acosta barely had time to take a forklift from the warehouse that the avocado packer Agro Rincón had just opened in the small industrial estate of El Callejón de la Gata, in Los Llanos de Aridane, a population of about 20,170 inhabitants. It was last Saturday, hours before the northern part of the cone of the La Palma volcano gave way to the pressure of the lava and began to pour millions of cubic meters of laundry at more than 1,200 degrees of temperature. He was speeding up the slope. “There was no way that the Civil Guard would let me in,” explains the manager. “We had spent 80,000 euros ago nothing on the ship, I do not know how the warehouse will be now. But two days ago the lava was on the doorstep ”.
The passage of the volcano through this small industrial center of Los Llanos de Aridane has reached a cement plant, causing a fire that has caused a striking column of gases “that were initially estimated as possibly toxic,” as explained by the spokesperson for the Plan’s steering committee. Volcanic Emergencies of the Canary Islands (Pevolca), Miguel Ángel Morcuende.
The column of smoke that the cement factory fire has generated, sometimes a radiant white and sometimes a disturbing dark gray, has once again provoked the glances of hundreds of curious people who had almost become accustomed to the terrible, but shocking, stamp offered by the Cabeza de Vaca volcano. Faced with this new event, the crisis committee decreed on Monday morning the confinement of several towns in El Paso and Los Llanos, where approximately 3,500 people reside. The measure is maintained until the degree of cloud risk and air quality can be determined. “Yes, I am confined, but I have to do the shopping,” said Francisco Rodríguez, a resident of Tajuya, at the entrance of the Spar supermarket chain on Monday afternoon.
Like him, many neighbors seemed to ignore the instructions of the authorities. And that, despite the fact that since Monday morning, Civil Guard SUVs circulate through the confined towns warning through the public address system of the need to stay at home, close doors, windows and any air intake from outside.
The car, the Pevolca also warns, “is not a safe place.” It’s the same. Traffic is incessant on LP 2, one of the main arteries of La Palma. And the curious are not intimidated either. “Well, if the Civil Guard kicks me out, I’ll go, but in the meantime, I’ll take photos,” explains smiling Sara, an amateur photographer from Tenerife who shoots her camera incessantly at the Tajuya viewpoint.
Small industrial center
El Callejón de la Gata was home to a dozen small businesses. In addition to Agro Rincón, exclusive distributor of avocados for Mercadona, there was, among others, the cement company where the fire occurred, a furniture company (“its owner is a relative of my wife and it has been completely destroyed,” explains Abián Acosta), the home to a fleet of trucks and the local clean-up point, which is also in danger. “They are all businesses of people from here who may be left with nothing.”
This business enclave has been the last victim of the fierceness of the volcano, which until now had been primed with houses and banana plantations and vineyards, mainly. The collapse of the cone in the early hours of Saturday reactivated a destruction that had come to a standstill, in a kind of “stability”, according to the definition of Pevolca.
Thus, the affected area on the island reached 591.1 hectares this Monday, 65.33 more than on Sunday, one of the largest daily increases since the eruption began on September 19. According to the cadastre data, 753 buildings have already fallen in their wake. Most of them are houses (620). Another 70 are implement rooms and 29 had industrial use. In addition, 150 hectares of crops have been affected: 74.82 of banana trees, 45.16 of vineyards and 8.78 of avocado trees.
Many of these companies have insurance. And the Administrations are already accelerating payments. As of October 7, the Insurance Compensation Consortium, dependent on the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation, had paid 3.7 million to different policyholders affected by the eruption. This money, however, does not reassure Abián Acosta. Nor probably his old neighbors in the Callejón de La Gata. “We were insured, yes. And that? Where do we go now?”.