The recovery of La Palma continues after the downgrade from the red alert level to the yellow level on the 31st January, which switched management of the recovery from the Canary Islands Government to the Island Council of La Palma. Despite the reduction in alert level, evacuees from the La Bombilla and Puerto Naos areas near the coast directly to the south of the lava flows remain unable to return due to very high levels of CO2 still being recorded in the area.

In the last week, the island of La Palma has taken further steps towards its recovery from the volcanic eruption. Firstly, on the 19th January, it was announced by the Maritime authorities that the maritime exclusion zones off the western coast of La Palma would be reduced from two nautical miles to half a nautical mile between the towns of La Bombilla and San Borodón.

The return of 800 more evacuated people to areas south of the lava flows took place as planned today. In the area Puerto Naos to the south coast of the lava flows, which remains evacuated due to the persistence of gases, new CO2 concentration data published by Involcan highlights this issue. Between the 9th and 17th of January, an optical CO2 sensor was installed in the ground floor of a building in Puerto Naos to measure the accumulation of gases.

PEVOLCA have announced today that as of 9am on Tuesday the 18th January, the exclusion zone surrounding the volcano and lava flows will be further reduced, allowing around 800 more evacuated people to return to their homes. The newly opened zone comprises much of the area directly to the south of the lava flow field, and includes the settlements of Las Norias, Hoya del Verdugo, Morro de los Judíos, Las Manchas, Cuatro Caminos, San Nicolás and south of camino José Pons la Jurona.

With new returns of evacuated people and a shrinking of the exclusion zone in the last few days, a new normal is emerging in the post-eruptive landscape on the island. However, it is important to remember that in this landscape volcanic dangers persist. PEVOLCA has warned returning residents of approaching the lava flows, even if they appear cooled and stable, as collapses of the lava flows as they cool is possible, as well as the presence of high temperatures and high levels of volcanic gases.

After the successful return of more evacuees to their homes and reduction in size of the exclusion zone, the focus turns to the restorative work needed to repair damage to basic and essential services. Heavy machinery has been digging on the cooled lava flows surrounding La Laguna mountain, and work on an access road to Puerto Naos has been going well, despite being affected at times by gas levels in the area.

After days of tests and preparations, PEVOLCA has announced the size of the exclusion zone will be reduced from 7am local time Friday morning, allowing for the return of more of the evacuated population. All residents on the north side of the lava flow field have been cleared to return, as well as some to the south of the lava flow field. There still exists a larger exclusion zone to the south of the lava flow field, as a result of the greater problems of volcanic gas levels in that part of the flow field.