Muted Christmas joy in La Palma evacuees' caravan as volcano falls silent

·2-min read

By Marco Trujillo 

  LA PALMA, Spain (Reuters) - Dacil Batista felt little Christmas cheer while trimming a plastic fir tree by the caravan where she, her family and pets have been living since the volcanic eruption on the Spanish island of La Palma forced them from their home. 

  "No matter how low you feel, at this time of the year you must be strong for the children because they are excited about Christmas," said the 22-year-old mother of two. 

  The Cumbre Vieja volcano fell silent last week, raising hopes that the eruption that began on Sept. 19, which has forced the evacuation of thousands of residents, destroyed about 3,000 buildings and devastated crops, may be finally over.. 

  Batista says the children have been missing their house and garden with swings, a slide and a playhouse. 

  "But we will go back home and they will have it all again," she told Reuters after being shown a video of their property largely intact, but covered with tonnes of dark ash. 

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  "A lot of people are much worse off than we are. We still have the house," said Batista's partner Adam Gonzalez, 27, who has mostly adjusted to caravan life after spending many sleepless nights there during the eruption. 

  He recalled how frequent tremors would rattle the vehicle, spooking the family and their many pets - a dog, a dozen birds, two turtles and a ball python. 

  "It's been three months and now it's difficult not to see it or hear it (the volcano), to know it happened but as if nothing ever happened," he added. 

  Some residents have been allowed to return to their homes, but the parking lot where the family has their caravan is still full of mobile homes. The town hall of Los Llanos de Aridane has put a big Christmas tree above the car park to cheer up those who remain. 

  People have been quick to help each other out. A German neighbour gave the family another caravan, where Batista's mother-in-law and her son are staying now, after learning that all six of them had been sharing one vehicle. 

  Barring any resumption of volcanic activity, the authorities could declare the end of the eruption this week. 

  (Writing by Andrei Khalip, editing by Nathan Allen and Jane Merriman) 

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