The picture is an iconic image of the volcanic disaster on La Palma: a small, white house with a red roof escapes the burning lava. The streams bend and leave the cottage untouched.
“That photo shows that you can resist tragedy as well,” says photographer Alfonso Escalero, who took the statue near the village of El Paso on Tuesday. He doesn‘t quite understand it himself yet. The photo of the unscathed home went viral after it appeared on his video company’s Facebook page.
“We were on La Palma taking videos and pictures of the eruption, but barely prepared for the consequences,” Escalero says. “It was only after the blow that I realized how homes are being destroyed, threatening people and animals. The reality of La Palma is more of a thing for war photographers than us. I wasn‘t ready for that much tragedy.”
Escalero posted the photo on Tuesday, without realizing how special the image was. He photographed dozens of houses surrounded by the burning lava that day, and the red-roofed house was one of them.
The statue was also seen by the Dutch Ada Monnikendam, which has a construction company on the island. Monnikendam came into contact with a Danish couple three decades ago, for whom she designed and set up the red-roofed house. When it was finished, the Danes gave the house a name ‘La casita ‘, literally ‘The Little House‘.
“It was a shock that it was still there,” says Monnikendam. She connected with the Danish couple, who are now elderly and have not been on La Palma since the pandemic. “We had to cry, we were convinced that the house had been rolled down. It’s joybecause that one house is still there. And grief over the drama you see everywhere.”
There‘s no real explanation why the lava ran around “La casita.” “The terrain is no different from other places. It’s amazing. In some places, the lava stream is twelve meters high. That picture is a signal of hope. For all the inhabitants of the island.”
The volcano on the island of La Palma erupted for the first time in 50 years on Sunday:
Photographer Alfonso Escalero remained defeated most of the day in his hotel on Wednesday. “If you only have a little feeling in your body, you get that. Police officers can handle this, soldiers. But I don‘t. I’m just thinking about the devastation. It‘s too heavy.”
Thirty thousand images
He finally flew over the destroyed area with a drone yesterday and saw that the Danish house is still untouched. His company made thirty thousand images of the consequences of the eruption. He has no idea what he’s going to do with so much material yet. “We‘re not ready to think about that yet.”
Ada Monnikendam also does not know if ‘La Casita ‘can ever be reached after the eruption. “It’s a miracle. But we can never go there again. All roads have been cut off. That picture is the last picture the Danish couple will ever see of ‘La casita ‘again.”