LA PALMA ERUPTION

La Palma eruption: Cumbre Vieja volcano claims life of volunteer

A 70-year-old man who was working as a volunteer cleaning volcanic ash from the La Palma eruption was killed when a roof collapsed under him.

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La Palma eruption: Cumbre Vieja volcano claims life of volunteer
Miguel Calero EFE

Almost two months after it first erupted, the Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma has claimed its first victim. According to reports from Spanish news wire EFE, a 70-year-old man was killed while working as a volunteer cleaning up volcanic ash when the roof of the building he was on collapsed. The vast amounts of ash – which consists of fragments of volcanic rock and glass – being emitted from Cumbre Vieja has been carpeting buildings across La Palma, leading the Spanish government to mobilize military personnel to help with the clean-up.

The volunteer, who had the necessary authorization from the Island Council of La Palma to carry out the work on other properties, was on the roof of his own home in the neighbourhood of Corazoncillo on Friday when the accident occurred.

Volunteer clean-up teams in Cumbre Vieja exclusion zone

Speaking to EFE, the mayor of the El Paso municipality, Sergio Rodríguez, explained that the volunteer clean-up teams are made up of local residents working in groups of four or five. It remains unclear if the Canary Islands regional government will continue to allow civilians to participate in the cleaning operation following the accident.

Several of the victim’s neighbours had been concerned as they had not seen the man since Friday afternoon, when he had finished his volunteer work inside the exclusion zone set up to prevent people from entering dangerous areas. Other volunteers noticed that the man was not with the rest of the group when they left the restricted area. He had been given permission to visit his home in Corazoncillo to pick up some belongings and clean the ash that had accumulated on the roof of his house and was found by the emergency services on Saturday morning.

La Palma authorities say accidents have occurred

According to the La Palma police and fire service, there have been several accidents involving people falling from buildings while cleaning volcanic ash. Despite the risks associated with working inside the exclusion zone, the local authorities have highlighted the importance of the work being carried out by these volunteer groups, given that the accumulation of ash can cause serious structural damage to buildings.

The Cumbre Vieja eruption has now destroyed over 2,600 buildings on La Palma since the volcano became active on 19 September.