After nearly 100 days of spewing molten lava, smoke, and ash, the Cumbre Vieja volcanic eruption on La Palma in the Canary Islands, Spain, on Christmas Day was declared over. In its fiery wake, some 3,000 properties were destroyed by lava, an area of 1,219 hectares (roughly 1,500 soccer fields), CBC reported.
Yet, haunting and incredible photos remain to tell the tale.
While the eruption left a nightmarish imprint in the minds of locals, instilling the power of nature, so too it left a record of images, both awesome and terrifying, taken by photographers. Travel and nature photographer Saúl Santos Díaz, 41, an island local from Fuencaliente, shared with The Epoch Times a host of stunning visuals documenting the geological event.
Díaz, who travels the world shooting for various travel magazines, had for years dreamed of capturing a live volcano on camera, as his own father once did before him; although Díaz got his wish, the impact hit close to home. He declared the perilous three-month photographic assignment a mix of “very hard emotional shock” in addition to fulfillment of a dream.
“On the one hand, I fulfilled a dream and saw something spectacular and indescribable, it broke [me] the pain of seeing how my neighbors’ houses were taken away,” he told The Epoch Times in Spanish. “On the other hand, I knew that I had to photograph everything, the good and the bad, document every moment, for three months, I have been working day by day.”
Díaz’s images capture the volcano’s bursting to life on Sept. 19, then Cumbre Vieja at the height of its fury in November, jetting lava hundreds of feet into the air, as if mocking locals looking on in shock and horror. Distally from La Palma’s highest peak, he shot the hellish inferno breaching the cloud layer, and finally the volcano subsiding in mid-to-late December—as scientists were declaring it done.
“This happened throughout history many times and would happen again, we built on volcanoes, now sadly the volcano built on us,” Diaz added. “Now we have to see it as an opportunity, something new, adapt and integrate with it, we cannot fight against nature, only adapt to it.”
Although the eruption has abated, locals remain wary, while a massive cleanup operation rolls out with much work still ahead. Military, environmental personnel, police, as well as civilians can be seen shoveling out neighborhoods deeply buried in ash and rock. The government has also pledged over 400 million euros (approx. US$453 million) for the reconstruction.
Meanwhile, incredible photos remain for posterity and for the world. Here are more hauntingly beautiful images from La Palma by Saúl Santos Díaz: