MADRID (AP) — Spain's prime minister vowed Sunday to rebuild the island of La Palma, where a volcanic eruption has spewed molten lava and a thick cloud of pyroclastic ash for the past two weeks, destroying houses and banana crops. The eruption is giving no indications it will end soon.
Lava flowing from vents in the Cumbre Vieja volcano range has destroyed over 900 buildings and displaced about 6,000 people so far, and new vents opened just days ago. The island of 85,000 people lies in Spain's Canary Islands archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of Africa.
Returning for the third time since the volcano eruption began on Sept. 19, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced Sunday an aid package of 206 million euros ($238 million) for the affected islanders.
According to Sánchez, the money will rebuild crucial infrastructure for the island´s economy, mainly irrigation networks for the important banana export industry and other agricultural crops, as well as roads that serve the hiking trails and beaches that attract tourists. The funds also aim to create jobs and cut taxes for La Palma residents.
“We are facing a test of resistance, because we don't know when the volcano's eruption will end," Sánchez said in a televised press conference. “But citizens should know that when it does end, the government of Spain will be there to help with the enormous task of rebuilding La Palma and offer a horizon of prosperity.”
The government already approved a separate 10.5 million euro ($12.2 million) emergency fund last month to purchase housing and basic goods for those who have seen their houses buried by molten rock.
Rivers of lava have meandered downhill for over 6 kilometers (nearly 4 miles) and after reaching the island's shore are now tumbling into the Atlantic Ocean, where a peninsula of more than 28 hectares (70 acres) is growing and stretching into the sea.
On Sunday, the Canary Islands' volcanology institute, Involcan, said the explosive activity in the vents of the volcano had intensified, while several medium-range earthquakes were recorded by the country's geographic institute, IGN.
Despite the eruption's spectacular images and its damage to property, no casualties have been reported, mainly due to speedy evacuations.