Spain’s Tourism Minister is in hot water after she appeared to propose using a volcanic eruption that has destroyed hundreds of homes to lure tourists to the Canary Islands.
A volcano on the island of La Palma began erupting on Sunday evening, forcing 6,800 people to evacuate from nearby villages, as a 12-metre high wall of lava spewed forth, ABC News reported.
The next day, Reyes Maroto, Spain’s Minister of Commerce and Tourism, told Canal Sur Radio that visitors should take advantage of the unique display taking place within the Spanish archipelago.
Maroto said Spain must reassure tourists that they can keep visiting La Palma and advocated for volcano tourism.
“We must take advantage of this as a claim. It is a wonderful spectacle of nature,” she said, adding that the government is providing information so tourists could watch the eruption and find out what is still open on the island.
Lava was reportedly still flowing from the volcano on Thursday afternoon, and had engulfed 320 buildings across 154 hectares, according to ABC News.
Experts have indicated the eruption and its aftermath could last up to 84 days, including earthquakes, volcanic ash, acid rain and possible new lava flows.
The Guardian reported that Maroto’s political opponents have labelled her comments “inappropriate”.
“There are people who are losing their homes!!!” Agustín Almodóbar, tourism spokesperson for Spain’s conservative party, said.
Maroto later clarified her comments and said the government’s priority was to help the island’s inhabitants deal with the eruption.
“Today, we stand with the victims and those affected, and we’re thinking about how best to get back to that normality that nature’s changed,” she said, according to The Guardian.
“In the future – in the coming weeks and months, when this catastrophe has passed – we’ll think about how we can once again make the beautiful island of La Palma into a tourist area.”
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