La Palma volcano eruption ends after months of destruction

SOUNDBITE [IN SPANISH] "The eruption is over."

With those four words - "the eruption is over" - Canary islanders breathed a sigh of relief, as scientists on Saturday declared the eruption on Spain's La Palma officially over after nearly 100 days.

The Cumbre Vieja volcano first began erupting on Sept. 19 spewing out lava, rock and ash and upending the lives of thousands.

But two weeks ago the volcano suddenly went quiet. Authorities, who were wary of raising false hope, held off until Christmas Day to give the all-clear.

Canary Islands regional security chief Julio Perez:

"It is as an emotional relief but I think we can add another word to the message to people in La Palma, the Canary Islands and the whole Spain and that is hope because now we can focus all our energy in the reconstruction now that this unbearable, this terrible destructive process has ended."

Though evacuee Dacil Batista felt little Christmas cheer while trimming a plastic fir tree in a tent by the caravan where she, her family and pets have been living during the last few months of the volcanic eruption.

"No matter how low you feel, at this time of the year you must be strong for the children because they are excited about Christmas."

The 22-year-old mother of two says the family - and their pet snake - are eager to return to their house which luckily, was not destroyed.

During the eruption, lava had poured down the mountainside, swallowing up houses, churches and many of the banana plantations that account for nearly half the island's economy. Although some 3,000 properties were destroyed, no one was killed.

Batista's husband, Adam Gonzalez, said it was strange not hearing the constant roar of the volcano, which they had gotten used to over the past three months.

But while the roar has subsided and islanders no longer have to carry umbrellas and goggles to protect against ash, a mammoth cleanup operation is only just getting underway.

The government has pledged more than 400 million euros for reconstruction - but some residents and businesses have complained that funds are slow to arrive.

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