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A drone still taken from video shows a river of lava approaching Spain's La Palma coast. Overon/Reuters TV/Handout via REUTERS

Families rushed to retrieve belongings from their homes and escape the advancing lava on Tuesday, as sirens sounded and helicopters flew overhead in air filled with smoke from an erupting volcano on the Spanish island of La Palma.

Drone footage showed the lava flowing westwards to the coast in three huge tongues, incinerating everything in their path, including a school.

The largest flow was advancing towards a banana plantation and water reservoir as it crept closer to the main street of the town of La Laguna, travelling at about 200 metres an hour, authorities said.

Lorena, a 42-year-old Laguna resident, raced to salvage furniture and electrical appliances from her parents’ home.

“We are nervous, we are taking out the most essential things like mattresses, the fridge,” she said, with her family’s possessions strewn around the back yard.

The town was evacuated on Monday but emergency workers gave residents a two-hour window to return home and save whatever they could.

Nearly a third of the population in the affected areas work in the banana plantation industry, a producers’ association said.

One family of three in the town of Los Llanos de Aridane, which lies in the possible path of the molten rock, hurried to load a Toyota van with mattresses, a fridge, washing machine and bags stuffed with clothes.

Residents in Los Llanos de Aridane were given one hour to pack up and flee, a scene played out over La Palma in the Canary Islands since the volcano erupted on Sunday, forcing 6,000 people to evacuate. At least 166 houses have been destroyed so far.

Regional leader Angel Victor Torres said emergency services were powerless to stop the lava’s “inexorable” advance to the sea and that more homes, churches and agricultural land would be consumed.

While the total damage remains hard to predict, he said it would far exceed the 400-million-euro threshold needed to qualify for European Union aid.

TOXIC GASES

Authorities have warned that as it hits the sea, the lava could create a cloud of toxic gases and possibly explosions as the molten rock cools rapidly.

Marine authorities were keeping a two-nautical-mile zone offshore closed as a precaution “to prevent onlookers on boats,” the island council’s chief Mariano Hernandez told Cadena SER radio station, urging people to stay away. A road collapse partly hampered the evacuation on Monday.

The lava flow was initially expected to reach the shore on Monday, but it is now moving more slowly. More people had to be evacuated late on Monday and early on Tuesday after a new stream of lava started flowing from the Cumbre Vieja volcano.

“The lava on its path to the sea has been a bit capricious and has diverted from its course,” El Paso’s mayor Sergio Rodriguez told state broadcaster TVE.

The volcano erupted on Sunday, shooting lava hundreds of metres into the air after La Palma, the most northwestern island in the Canaries archipelago, had been rocked by thousands of tremors in the preceding days.

No fatalities or injuries have been reported.

A Reuters witness saw the flow of molten rock slowly engulf a house in the village of Los Campitos, igniting the interior and sending flames through the windows and onto the roof.

As of Tuesday morning, the lava had covered 103 hectares and destroyed 166 houses, according to data released by the European Union’s Copernicus Emergency Management service.

Emergency services have said residents should not fear for their safety if they follow recommendations.

REUTERS
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FILE PHOTO: Human skulls from the Herero and ethnic Nama people are displayed during a ceremony in Berlin REUTERS/Christian Mang/File Photo

Around 300 protesters stormed Namibia’s parliament on Tuesday, as the National Assembly was due to vote on a $1 billion compensation offer from Germany to atone for its 1904-1908 genocide against the Herero and Nama people.

Namibian authorities announced on May 28 that Germany had agreed to fund projects in the southwest African nation worth that amount over 30 years, to atone for the killings and property seizures in its then colony more than a century ago.

Germany apologised on May 28 for its role in the slaughter of Herero and Nama tribespeople and officially described the massacre as genocide for the first time.

Protesters led by the opposition and traditional leaders from the affected communities marched through the capital Windhoek before climbing over a fence to enter the parliament building, arguing the sum was too small and objecting that they were not involved in the negotiations with Germany.

“The so-called agreement is a flagrant disregard of our legitimate reparation and restitution demands,” a petition handed over to the deputy speaker of parliament Loide Kasingo read.

German colonial forces killed thousands of Herero and Nama between 1904 and 1908, after the tribes rebelled against German rule of the colony, then named German South-West Africa.

Survivors were driven into the desert, where many ended up in concentration camps to be used as slave labour, some dying of cold, malnutrition and exhaustion.

“The agreement falls short … on meaningful apology and reparations … (and) contains no justice and only sharpens our pain,” Kavemuii Murangi, a descendant of one of the victims, said in a statement.

The German embassy in Windhoek was not immediately available to comment.

A pro-government faction of the Herero and Nama provisionally accepted Germany’s offer, one of its leaders, Gerson Katjirua, said at a news conference. The parliamentary vote, due later on Tuesday, was likely to pass.

REUTERS
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Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged leaders of the world’s major economies including the United States to deliver on their commitments toward a $100 billion per year climate fund with less than six weeks to go before a UN climate summit.

Johnson and UN Secretary-General António Guterres hosted a roundtable of world leaders on Monday to address major gaps on emissions targets and climate finance.

“Too many major economies – some represented here today, some absent – are lagging too far behind,” Johnson said. “I’ll stress that again – for this to be a success we need developed countries to find that $100 billion.”

The closed-door meeting during the annual high-level week of the UN General Assembly includes leaders and representatives from a few dozen countries representing industrialised nations, emerging economies and vulnerable developing countries.

Those involved in the roundtable included the United States, China, India, EU nations as well as Costa Rica, the Maldives and a mix of developing and middle income countries and industrialised nations.

Johnson told reporters that he is hopeful the United States can deliver on a promise to step up its share of money toward the $100 billion annual goal but “we’ve been here before” and “we’re not counting our chickens”.

US Climate Envoy John Kerry, who represented the United States at Monday’s meeting, said Washington would deliver more climate aid ahead of the Oct. 31-Nov. 12 COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

“The United States is crucially important,” Johnson said. “It will send a massively powerful signal to the world.”

Guterres told reporters after the roundtable that he heard “encouraging declarations” about raising financial support to help developing countries deal with climate change.

One UN official described the discussions as “brutally honest” about expectations for the summit and that there “was a collective sense of ‘we’re in trouble’.”

OFF TRACK

The roundtable discussion aimed to ensure a successful outcome at the conference even as reports show major economies being far off track on their emission reduction goals and climate finance commitments.

A UN analysis of country pledges under the Paris agreement on climate released on Friday showed global emissions would be 16 per cent higher in 2030 than they were in 2010 – far off the 45 per cent reduction by 2030 that scientists say is needed to stave off disastrous climate change.

Another report released on Friday by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said that rich countries likely missed a goal to contribute $100 billion last year to helping developing nations deal with climate change after increasing funding by less than 2 per cent in 2019.

Guterres also pressed donor countries and multilateral development banks to show progress toward meeting his goal to increase the share of finance dedicated to helping countries adapt to climate change to 50 per cent from the current level of 21per cent, said Selwin Hart, special adviser to Guterres on climate action.

A report released on Monday by Oxfam estimated that wealthy governments will continue to miss the $100 billion goal and reach only $93 billion to $95 billion per year by 2025 – five years after the goal should have been met, depriving climate-vulnerable countries of between $68 billion and $75 billion in total over the six-year target period.

Simon Stiell, Grenada’s minister for climate resilience, said that in the weeks between now and the summit, the pressure is on the G20 group of the world’s biggest economies to step up their domestic emission reduction targets and commitments to mobilise international climate aid.

“If you look a the role that the G20 plays in the global discussion, they generate 80 per cent of global emissions and constitute 85 per cent of global GDP. They have the wealth and technology to act,” he said.

Action by the G20 countries can “move the needle” in terms of meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement, Stiell said.

Guterres told Reuters in an interview last week that the gulf between developing and developed countries puts the summit at risk of failure.

“There is still a level of mistrust, between north and south, developed and developing countries, that needs to be overcome,” Guterres said.

REUTERS