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Photographer in ‘Emotional Shock’ Captures Volcanic Eruption That Lasted 3 Months on the Island of La Palma

TIMEJanuary 11, 2022

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.

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Díaz shot this photo of Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma on or around Sept. 19 when the eruption began. (Courtesy of Saúl Santos Díaz)

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.”

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Díaz captions (translated from Spanish) a photo taken on or around Nov. 19: “Night of September 19, [the] first day [of Cumbre Vieja] unleashing its strength and power of destruction, two months later it is still there. We will surely recover with more strength when your strength is exhausted. Courage my island, not much longer.” (Courtesy of Saúl Santos Díaz)
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A photo taken of Cumbre Vieja volcano from the highest peak in La Palma. (Courtesy of Saúl Santos Díaz)

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.”

(Courtesy of Saúl Santos Díaz)

(Courtesy of Saúl Santos Díaz)

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:

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“The volcano king, rising his hand of ashes towards the stars, welcoming the white pearl of the sky while, step by step, entering to the chamber of night,” Díaz captions of this photo taken in late September. “La Palma, Canary Islands … (All my support to the families who are losing their homes).” (Courtesy of Saúl Santos Díaz)
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Díaz captions this photo, taken around Sept. 25, “More than ever, strength La Palma! You will come out stronger than ever.” (Courtesy of Saúl Santos Díaz)
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A photo depicts lava spilling into the ocean in a burst of steam. (Courtesy of Saúl Santos Díaz)
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A photo shows Cumbre Vieja volcano spewing lava into the air in the month of October. (Courtesy of Saúl Santos Díaz)
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Díaz captions this photo taken in late October, “Island of La Palma. Canary Islands. Strength, my island!!” (Courtesy of Saúl Santos Díaz)
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“There seems to be a consensus in the scientific community that the volcano is in its final phase. It is the wish of all and that after so much damage and destruction, it begins to give good things to the island. Photo taken a few weeks ago, when its explosive activity was very strong and one of those days it expelled a large amount of ash, making graphic documentation for Involcan. Force La Palma! Not much longer.” (Courtesy of Saúl Santos Díaz)
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Díaz captions this photo taken in late December, “It’s been a month since Los Guirres Beach disappeared under the river of lava. Scientists of Involcan preparing to do thermography tests of the lava. La Palma Island.” (Courtesy of Saúl Santos Díaz)
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“I think we can already say with confidence and joy that your eruption is already just a memory and this is the image of your last breath,” captions Díaz. “Now hoping that with everyone’s union and work, you begin to give many good things and new opportunities to the island. Involcan scientists working in front of the beast at sunset. Within all this madness, with this photo I want to give you the best wishes and happy holidays for everyone.” (Courtesy of Saúl Santos Díaz)
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A photo depicts lava reaching the sea just days before Christmas. (Courtesy of Saúl Santos Díaz)

(Courtesy of Saúl Santos Díaz)

(Courtesy of Saúl Santos Díaz)

(Courtesy of Saúl Santos Díaz)

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Michael Wing
Editor and Writer
Michael Wing is a writer and editor based in Calgary, Canada, where he was born and educated in the arts. He writes mainly on culture, human interest, and trending news.