The volcanic eruption on Spain’s La Palma island was officially declared over on Christmas after nearly 100 days of almost constant lava flow that effected thousands of lives by destroying property and effecting the local economy.
After erupting on 19 September, the Cumbre Vieja volcano suddenly went quiet on 13 December. Authorities, however, refrained from making any formal announcement until Saturday out of caution.
“What I want to say today can be said with just four words: The eruption is over,” Canary Islands regional security chief Julio Perez said.
“It’s not joy or satisfaction – how we can define what we feel? It’s an emotional relief. And hope. Because now, we can apply ourselves and focus completely on the reconstruction work,” Mr Perez said.
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez called the eruption’s end “the best Christmas present.”
“We will continue working together, all institutions, to relaunch the marvelous island of La Palma and repair the damage,” he said in a tweet in Spanish on Saturday.
Maria Jose Blanco, the director of the National Geographic Institute on the Canaries, said all indicators suggested the eruption had run its course.
Carmen del Fresno, from the National Geographic Institute’s volcano monitoring department, had told Reuters earlier in October that there was no way to predict how long the eruption would last.
The molten rock trickled down the mountainside, flattening houses, churches and banana plantations that account for nearly half the island’s economy.
About 7,000 people evacuated from their homes on La Palma, which has about 83,000 inhabitants. Since then most have returned home, but many houses are reportedly still covered in ash.
Some 3,000 properties were destroyed by lava that now covers 1,219 hectares, according to the final tally by emergency services.
Mr Perez said the archipelago’s government valued the loss of buildings and infrastructure at more than €900m ($1bn or £760.7m).
While some flights were cancelled or redirected in the first couple of weeks, travel to the island had largely been restored, with the volcano’s national park still closed and certain areas of the island off limits.