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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Demonstration in San Sebastian on Sat.,Sept.1st, 12 noon

There will be a huge demonstration in the capital of La Gomera, San Sebastian this Saturday, 01-09-12, at 12 o'clock, starting from Plaza de Las Americas.
This demonstration will also be supported by many voluntary organisations from neighbouring islands, and is intended as a show of strength of the people here, demanding a thorough investigation of the fires, and will be a show of support for those directly affected. It will not be party-political,  and ALL ARE WELCOME.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Is it all over ? Political fires now raging !

The firestorm and the hot temperatures may have passed, but politically the storm is only beginning to brew. I'll try and keep out of that and so preserve my independence.
Anyway, the alert level was today reduced to Nr.1 again, which means the island's government is again solely responsible. Same happened before (much discussed) in the face of a heat-wave alert and an almost-extinguished fire. After that, all hell broke loose, and the just sent-home hydro-planes had to be sent back here. This time, however the weather gods are kind and it even rained a few drops last night. The fire is out and what is left smouldering underground may take another while to extinguish, but appears to be definitely under control. The total damage seems dramatic, but of the core-forest only 8% was damaged and most of the island is totally intact. An eminent expert on the type of habitat affected and an expert in forest fires, Professor J.R.Arrevalo, has even stated that human efforts to 'restore' the affected areas after the fire may do do more damage than the fire itself. Most plants and trees affected, he says, have a built- in fire resistance and/or their seeds can withstand fires. The canary palm (phoenix canariensis) even grows stronger after having been 'cleaned by fire'.
Damage to property, crops and livestock is another matter and sincere donations are urgently needed (see previous posts), as the officially-announced aid will not arrive where it is needed most. Also previous experience on the islands of Gran Canaria (severe fires 2007) and la Palma (...2009) has shown that most of the affected people are still waiting for the 'immediate aid' promised by the institutions, and court cases demanding same are still pending.
Here a video of pictures of the recent fires , with some caricatures thrown in:
It was BAD, I'm not trying to hide that fact - but a lot worse was the media-hype.
Thankfully nobody was hurt or worse... or the media would have made the rest of us victims...

LA GOMERA is alive and kicking, and still intact.

The  poor are  worst-hit, as always: See previous posts for direct donations


Friday, August 24, 2012

Important & interesting Link:

The official La Gomera tourism site (in English) with 'Questions and Answers' about the fire (surprsingly without the usual bullshit) here :

Thursday, August 23, 2012

La Gomera is recovering

The clean-up operation in Valle Gran Rey is in full swing and for this weekend an environmental group has chartered a bus to bring more volunteers to assist.
There are plans being drawn up to restore ALL damaged areas, but obviously some parts in the mature forest will take longer to recover than others. Overall 'only' 10% of the
island was affected and this fact will help recuperation.
The remaining glowing embers, glowing roots and organic material underground are being tackled by digging trenches and by extinguishing and cooling them from the air as well as by fire brigades on the ground - to prevent new fires.
All local fiestas have been suspended for the time being, but the benefit show on Sept. 8th will go ahead.
More help is still needed, especially for those who lost everything and weren't insured.
There are a lot of cases,too, where properties weren't properly registered or fully legal and in those cases even official government aid cannot be claimed. 
...and there are many cases where the victims are  either to shy, too proud, or too modest to ask for help, and for those we need to organize some help discretly and directly.
The newly founded 'plataforma Valle Gran Rey' http://plataformavallegranrey.com/en tries to help those as well, and there are private initiatives, like this one by a German medical doctor who has a clinic in VGR and in his video shows a despairing local man called Domingo (Domingo means Sunday - it all happened during Sunday night 12-08-2012):

BUT please remember that there is only ONE official account for donations (see my previous post) !!!

Finally here's a link to a video shot in the El Cedro forest, one of the many, many beautiful areas left totally intact:


Upper Valle Gran Rey before the fire:



Upper Valle Gran Rey after the fire  ( but I can guarantee you that it soon will look just as before again. Most palm trees will recover, as will lots of fruit trees and I've already seen many new green shoots). The people, however, will need more aid to recover...:

Total damage for the whole island is estimated at over 70 Million Euros, not counting lost revenue, etc. ... That's an awful lot for a small island with only 22.000 inhabitants and an already crisis-damaged, fragile economy.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Friends of La Gomera

There is a lot of goodwill towards La Gomera now. Messages of support are flooding in, as well as donations (much needed goods and money) and benefit concerts and soccer matches are being organised. The well known 'Nooctua' disco chain from Tenerife, that  did a great road show here
in the harbour of Valle Gran Rey last month with lots of DJs and live shows will do a special benefit show at the same location on the 8th of September. Last time over 2000 attended !
Come over and dance the night away for a good cause !
If you want to contribute money instead, I can guarantee that ALL the money going into the following account will reach the people who lost everything and weren't insured:

CCC: 2100-6756 – 67 – 0200020646
IBAN: ES06 2100 6756 6702 0002 0646
BIC/SWIFT: CAIXESBBXXX
Caja Canarias / Caixa Bank
This account is administered by the newly founded voluntary group and is the ONLY
official account for donation (approved by local government).
See here:
...and the official town hall site here:
http://www.vallegranrey.es/turismo/es/informacion-util/noticias/97.html

+++ If you're looking for a great holiday, then go to La Gomera now or in the future. Better again: If you're an artist or a musician, come over here and do a benefit gig !

The latest (not complete) official count for Valle Gran Rey is:
43 houses totally destroyed (the remnants have to be demolished)
48 houses badly damaged, but can be repaired
69 commercial or agricultural buildings destroyed or damaged
Countless animals dead
Crops destroyed
NO loss of human life +++ NO serious injuries, only very minor ones.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Update: Nothing much has changed

I promise a more extensive report tomorrow or whenever after. The people 
here still are shell-shocked, but life and laughter continue. I'm helping as a
volunteer as much as I can, but I have little time at the 'ol' computer'.
...and we've entered another heat wave. Hurricane 'Gordon' won't bring 
any rain here, unfortunately. More heat and stronger winds instead.

More good news:

I'm just back from a tour to evaluate the state of affairs and let me

tell you that in many parts of La Gomera NOTHING has changed, in 90% of La Gomera nothing has changed - A MIRACLE !

BUT... there is a lot of work to be done.

We'll come out of this a stronger, a more coherent and intact community with 
a new-found solidarity.

Efforts to entrench the still smouldering fires on, and under-ground continue
and are 'progressing favourably'. 

More about all this ASAP. I'm exhausted, particularly after (yet another) conversation
with locals, some of whom defied evacuation orders and hid to defend their property
with simple means.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Update: Fires on La Gomera island

GOOD NEWS: All roads open again

Clean up operation progressing with many volunteers.
Donations are beginning to come in.
Touristic zones unaffected and business as usual.
Great sense of solidarity and a concerted effort to build a better La Gomera.
Unfortunately there still is a lot of bad and/or sensational, untrue press reports,
which is damaging our fragile and crisis-weakened economy. 

Journalists: STOP spreading unconfirmed or badly researched news, and

COME HERE TO SEE WITH YOUR OWN EYES !!!

If you want to get involved or if you want to donate, click below:

Friday, August 17, 2012

La Gomera fire is now almost completely out

+++All hotels, bars, restaurants, shops, etc. are undamaged and open !

It will however take a lot more time until the last glowing embers and glowing roots underground have been fully extinguished.
Most people are back in their homes but 85 houses were burnt in Valle Gran Rey alone and a few more in mountain villages. 
There is a great sense of solidarity here and people are helping each other and are volunteering to clean up after the fire storm.
Slowly (and for some painfully) life is returning to normal and last night there was live music in bars and restaurants and people were relaxing again after what has been a tense
and stressful period of nearly two weeks.

There is NO  danger to tourists or visitors !

+++ new and interesting article (in English !) by 'gomeranoticias' here:
http://www.gomeranoticias.com/article/gomeranoticias-offers-good-news-and-images-areas-unaffected-fire

Many scenic spots and areas were left totally intact, some examples below:










Thursday, August 16, 2012

The fires on La Gomera are close to being 'stable'

Meanwhile the hardest-hit municipal area of Valle Gran Rey is starting to evaluate the damage. First estimates now have shown that 85 houses were badly damaged by the fire and 46 of those are totally in ruins.
There was no loss of life and no serious injuries - this now looks like a miracle.
In the lower part of VGR  no damage was done and life is beginning to return to normal.
About 25% of the forest in the national park has burnt, but the most beautiful areas, where a lot of the best walking and hiking paths are located have remained totally intact. So please spread the word and come visit us sometime in the near future to show your support. We can guarantee you a very warm welcome and a peaceful gem of an island in the Atlantic.

A special 'thank you' to the fire brigades that managed to halt the rapidly advancing wall of fire in Valle Gran Rey Sunday night with the use of explosives.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fires on La Gomera still active

While the weather has cooled down considerably, the fires in the forest will not be brought under control today. Morocco sent two planes yesterday to help the extinction efforts,
but last night a new forest fire broke out on neighbouring Tenerife and three of the
seven hydro-planes working here were sent over there by the authorities. 
The fires in the national park here have at least slowed down a bit and the prognosis is
'cautiously optimistic'.
The picture here in Valle Gran Rey is sad, but with a slow return to partial normality.
Supplies are coming in, but the vital 'supply' of tourists has almost stopped.
About 40 houses burnt down, most of them completely, but luckily there was no loss of life. Most livestock was lost however and the disposal of the dead animals is now a priority. Electricity, phone and water connections are being restored in the upper valley, where people have been allowed back to their homes.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Monday, August 13, 2012

DRAMATIC NEWS REGARDING FIRES ON LA GOMERA

The fires came down the valley extremely rapidly tonight after 9 pm.
The situation here is extremely tense and the TOTAL population of Valle Gran Rey
was step by step evacuated - we're talking now of over 5000 people.
The fires were so intense and appproaching sooooo rapidly, that gas bottles and cars 
could be heard exploding
I was evacuated mandatorily, too  and with the tense situation previous too that event
didn't post any updates.
Surprisingly down here at the evacuation zone of the port of Vueltas  we still have internet and electricity, but the water supply has stopped.
Fire brigades stationed further up have been evacuated, too.
There were sporadic explosions to be heard (poss. gas bottles and/or cars).
There are thousands of people, some old or in care, lots of tourists milling around
the harbour area, and the world's largest aluminum trimaran (operated by the 
Fred. Olsen  ferry company) has docked in the harbour to take people away from
here.
The other fires are still 'complicated' , but most of them 'out of control'
Weather should improve somewhat today.
I WILL STAY !
More news if and when...


Sunday, August 12, 2012

La Gomera fires update

The situation seems to be worsening again, there is a constant stream of the now 3 (with a 4th one expected later)
hydro-planes coming in over my house, to come down in the harbour to take water and then directly back up again to an area near the upper part of Valle Gran Rey, known as 'barranco de agua'. This area is also showing a lot more smoke in the past half hour and it
appears (and is NOT confirmed) that there is smoke coming from an area within the barranco further down. Helicopters are also working in this area - so that the situation there must be critical, and is not far from farms and houses. There is also now more smoke (again) to be seen on the mountain over upper V.G.R., and a reactivated fire  west of El Cercado has been reported by 'TV Canaria'.
All other fires are reported as still very active, and many areas that already have burnt down are smouldering strongly in in the hot winds.
More and larger ash particles have been coming down here.
All the road closures are still being strictly enforced.

Here's a link to a webcam operated by a local tour operator which clearly shows the smoke to the upper left of the palm tree in front (and you can also see that life continues calmly and safely in lower VGR), but don't confuse the stains on the lens with smoke:
http://www.timah.net/en/inhalt/webcam-calera.htm

Another webcam, which is trained on one of the beaches, shows that life goes on, only
interrupted slightly by the planes occasionnally flying over :
http://www.radioclm.com/webcam-playa-de-la-calera/


...and here's a link to an interesting video showing the hydro-planes coming in and taking water:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTwkABHPJzE

2500 evacuated due to the forest fires on La Gomera

By last night more than 2500 people had been evacuated from various villages on the island of La Gomera as fires were raging out of control despite the efforts of several
helicopters and 2 hydro-planes, as well as hundreds of firefighters on the ground.

Today the situation is  unchanged and the touristic town of Valle Gran Rey remains cut off due to road closures, but local excursion boats are ferrying people by
sea to the capital of San Sebastion.
There are still several active fronts blazing, some of them in the forest of the National Park. The weather conditions keep fanning the fires and there is a red alert for extremely high temperature and low humidity for the rest of the day.
More firefighters and another hydro-plane are expected to arrive later.

Edit 13:20h:
I've just been informed that the Valle Gran Rey municipal tourist office located at the taxi rank in La Calera (near town hall) will be open all day today and acts as an information centre for tourists and evacuees. They have all the information, are very helpful and they do speak English.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The fires on La Gomera  are still raging

The situation has been described by officials as 'critical and very complicated'.
By now about 500 people have been evacuated. Many roads are still closed, and
the official advice is not to travel by road at all. Valle Gran Rey is still cut off, but
occasionally convoys are being escorted in and out, and local excursion boat are
transporting people by sea. 
There now are 2 hydro-planes supporting the firefighters as well as several helicopters.
The planes are coming in over my house about every 5 minutes to 'land' near our harbour
to take in sea water, which surprisingly takes only a few seconds and they're back up, heading for the mountain villages. Most efforts are being concentrated to protect areas
where houses and livestock are at risk. Last weekend's fire all but destroyed the lovely little village of Igualero, where houses burnt down and farm animals and pets died. 

There are still several fire fronts raging in and around the National Park 'Garajonay'
(where we have a 2 million years old UN protected forest) and the latest news is tha the island's president has asked for more aerial support as the fires are getting too numerous and dangerous. The temperatures up there are in the high 30's (Celsius) and the humidity
only around 10% with strong winds that unpredictably change direction.

It is fairly clear by now that this is one of the worst disasters La Gomera has experienced.

... and bad news from Tenerife: A second fire has broken out there and the first fire

is still out of control. This will stretch emergency services even further...










More bad news: The fires are still raging and as a precautionary measure the town of Arure and parts of upper Valle Gran Rey had to be evacuated, as well as the village of Las  Hayas and some more localities. 
Valle Gran Rey is now cut off as the roads have been closed and the authorities have banned all traffic throughout the whole island.
The is an eerie silence and a distinct smell of smoke.
To make matters worse another forest fire started on Tenerife last night and some of the helicopters that were on their way to La Gomera had to be redirected to that fire.
There is a weather warning that very high temperature and strong winds, especially on higher ground (where the fires are !) are to be expected today and tomorrow.

Friday, August 10, 2012

So far - sooo bad. Sorry for the late update. I went to pour as much water as possible over house and garden, as the situation above (i.e. the mountain villages) is far from 'under control'. But the smoke is less - but to see the helicopters retreat with the advancing darkness is painful knowing that the hot night is approaching.
However, lots of villages 'up there' had to be evacuated and even the historic former capital of the island, the town of 'Chipude', had to be evacuated 'as a precautionary measure'. 
Well, the smoke was clearly seen in the SW town of Valle Gran Rey, the 'touristic and cosmopolitan capital' of La Gomera and could  be smelt as well...
I'm exhausted and promise to tell you more tomorrow...
Will work on the the design, etc., of the blog, ASAP....

Latest News:

The fire (or more correctly: one of them) has reached 'El Contadero', a popular starting point for walks - and right in the vulnerable centre of the forest.
The 5 helicopters can't act , as it is dark now.
A special ferry sailing with more firefighters, including units of UME (the Spanish military emergency unit) should be shortly on scene.
It really doesn't look good. The island government has closed the main road through the forest between the junction for the road to Playa Santiago and La Laguna Grande, as well as two secondary roads. Traveling to and from Valle Gran Rey  now involves a detour via 
Hermigua and Vallehermoso.
They also have declared a level 2 emergency which means that the coordination passes from the island government to the central Canary government.
More news later, got to work now.
Now there's a lot of smoke to be seen  over the SW of the island as far as 
Valle Gran Rey. That doesn't look good...
I had barely finished my first post reporting the end of the fires here, when I heard and then saw a helicopter of the emergency services fly past and I was left with a bad feeling.
This was confirmed through a local news service which reported a while ago that undiscvovered, still-glowing embers from last weekend's fires had re-ignited in two locations in the forest of the National Park. This was due to the temperature and wind,
which both rose significantly again today. Firefighters from here and from Gran Canaria
are on the scene and together with two helicopters are trying to prevent the fires from
spreading. The two locations are close to the highest points of the forest and this alone
makes the situation very dangerous. Add to that the elevated temperature and the strong
winds... Let's hope and pray it can be brought under control rapidly !
I will follow events and post any news here.

First post

Just starting this new blog in a hurry, because of the recent forest fires on the
island of La Gomera which hit the news worldwide. A lot of sensational news 
was presented and  first of all I want to let everybody know that the flames are 
extinguished and that, while a lot of damage was done, our unique forest and the
National Park 'Garajonay' are still more than 90% intact - as are more than 90 % 
of the rest of the island.
I am an Irish citizen who has been living on this beautiful island on and off for many years.
MORE and a better blogsite  as soon as I can get it done. 
This blog is intended to cover all aspects of life and living on La Gomera .
This is only  the first tentative step, as I'm not a 'seasoned blogger'.