La Palma locals pay All Saints tribute remotely as lava cuts off cemetery

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A woman cleans the ash of the Cumbre Vieja volcano in the cemetery of Los Llanos de Aridane

By Marco Trujillo

LA PALMA – Locals on the Spanish Canary Island of La Palma lit candles and laid flowers for their loved ones at a makeshift memorial on Monday, after the cemetery where they are buried was cut off by the lava flow from the Cumbre Vieja volcano.

Islanders, unable to visit the graves of family members in the Las Manchas cemetery of Los Angeles, gathered for an emotional tribute at a “memory corner” set up by the local government in the Plaza de Espana in nearby Los Llanos.

Nov. 1 is the Catholic feast of All Saints, a public holiday in Spain when people traditionally visit the graves of family members and lay flowers.

“I feel pain, we’re going through a lot of pain. We can’t go to the cemetery and take flowers to our loved ones,” said Tara, 27, who came to pay tribute to her parents.

The graves in the Las Manchas cemetery, which is closed because the surrounding lava makes it dangerous to access, did not go without flowers, however.

A military helicopter scattered flowers over the ash-covered area, while members of Spain’s Military Emergency Unit laid a floral tribute.

Since the eruption began on Sept. 19, lava from the volcano has covered nearly 900 hectares (2,200 acres) of land and destroyed more than 2,500 buildings.

More than 7,000 people have had to evacuate their homes, but no one has died in the eruption.

“We have nothing left, it’s all very sad. Please could this stop now … It has already destroyed our lives,” said Sagrario Castro, 45, whose parents are buried in the cemetery and whose brother has lost his house in the eruption.

The tribute brought comfort to some locals.

“It helps and gives you a spark of hope. We say that we can’t be there, but we are with them,” said local resident Monica.

(Writing by Jessica Jones; Editing by Aislinn Laing)