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Evacuated residents of Spanish island return after volcano eruption

Madrid, Jan 4 (IANS) Nearly a thousand people who were evacuated during the eruptionof the Cumbre Vieja volcano on the Spanish island of La Palma have been allowed to return home.

Miguel Angel Morcuende, technical director of the Canary Islands Volcano Risk Prevention Plan, said that the inhabitants were allowed to return to an area of around 345 hectares to the north of the eruption, which began on September 19, 2021 and was officially declared over on December 25, reports Xinhua news agency.

The municipalities of Tacande, Tajuya, Las Matelas, La Condesda, Marina Alta and Marina Baja are now considered to be safe enough, but the locals have been warned to avoid spaces, such as garages, below ground level that could still contain potentially toxic gases emitted from the mountain.

Residents have also been asked not to return to their homes alone and to ventilate the property for at least 15 minutes before switching on the electricity -- once again due to the possible presence of gas.

Around 7,000 people were evacuated from their homes within hours after the eruption on September 19, with many given just a few minutes to pack a handful of belongings.

Morcuende said that a further 564 people are still being housed in hotels and another 40 in social centres on the island.

Images acquired by a satellite of the European Union's Copernicus Earth observation program show that 1,241 hectares of land (around a quarter of which was arable) are now covered with lava.

The eruption -- the island's longest on record -- also destroyed 2,988 buildings.