Spain classifies La Palma volcano eruption island a disaster zone

Spain classified La Palma as a disaster zone on Tuesday, a move that will trigger financial support for the island.

The government announced a first package of $12.3 million, which includes around $5 million to buy houses, with the rest to acquire furniture and essential household goods, government spokesperson Isabel Rodriguez said.

More aid, including for the rebuilding of public infrastructure, will be sent once the current emergency is over, the spokesperson added.

One resident who was evacuated last week from the village of Tacande de Arriba was delighted to find his house still standing and his pet cats unscathed.

"It's a good feeling, a fantastic feeling," said Gert Waegerle, 75, who fled the advancing lava with his five turtles on Friday, but had to leave the cats behind.

"I am super happy because in the end, everything turned out fine."

La Palma, home to about 85,000 people, is part of the volcanic Canary Islands, an archipelago off northwest Africa. The island is roughly 35 kilometers long and 20 kilometers wide at its broadest point.

Lava from the eruption has devoured everything in its path, destroying 589 buildings and 21 kilometers of roads on La Palma. The lava now covers 258 hectares (637 acres), mostly farmland, according to a European Union satellite monitoring agency.

No deaths or serious injuries have been reported, thanks to the prompt evacuations of over 6,000 people.

Farming is one of the island’s economic mainstays, along with tourism, and the lava and ash has ruined crops and irrigation systems, endangered aviation and poses a significant health risk to those nearby.

No flights went in or out of La Palma’s airport for a fourth straight day because of a huge ash cloud. Volcanic ash is hazardous for aircraft engines.