MADRID (AP) — The Spanish Navy has started helping farmers on the volcanic island of La Palma to reach their lava-surrounded banana plantations by sea, Spain’s Defense Ministry said on Thursday.
A scale 5 earthquake overnight offered a reminder that the eruption on the island of 85,000 is continuing strong despite scientists recording lower overall seismic activity levels during the past week, Spain’s National Geographic Institute said.
One of the lava flows descending from the Cumbre Vieja ridge, where the eruption began on Sept. 19, reached the sea and swallowed most of the beach amid plumes of smoke. The molten rock was slowly advancing towards a beach restaurant.
More than 1,000 hectares (2,471 acres) of the island’s surface has been covered by lava and over 7,000 people have been evacuated, with no reported casualties. Either lava or thick particles of ash raining down have destroyed hundreds of properties, including homes and banana plantations that are the lifeblood of the island’s economy.
On Thursday, four barges from the amphibious assault ship “Castilla” were making the 20-minute trip between the port of Tazacorte, on the western side of the island, and the beach of Puerto Naos, where many of the banana plantations are located.
Since the lava flows have destroyed or cut dozens of roads, farmers have resorted to a 90-minute drive around the island to reach the plantations on the southern shore and tend to their banana trees. Portable desalination plants were also shipped in to supply water to greenhouse banana plantations at points where irrigation systems have been destroyed.
According to regional authorities, the volcano has already caused 100 million euros ($116 million) in losses for the banana industry in La Palma.