Volcanic Ash Halts Flights On Spanish Island

The Cumbre Vieja volcano, pictured from Tijarafe, spews lava, ash and smoke, on the Canary Island of La Palma, at night on October 10, 2021.  (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO / AFP)

 

Planes were grounded on La Palma, one of Spain’s Canary Islands, for the second straight day Sunday because of ash from a volcano that began erupting a month ago.

Airlines scrapped all 38 flights scheduled for Sunday, most of them to and from other islands in the Atlantic archipelago off Morocco, an airport spokesman said.

Only four of the 34 flights scheduled for Saturday went ahead as planned.

Local airline Binter said in a statement it would “restart activity as soon as possible and as long as conditions allow flights to resume safely”.

La Cumbre Vieja volcano, which lies 15 kilometres (nine miles) west of the airport, erupted on September 19, spewing out rivers of lava that have slowly crept towards the sea.

So far no one has been killed by the continuous lava flows, but the molten rock has covered 750 hectares (1,850 acres) and destroyed 1,800 buildings, including hundreds of homes, according to the European Union’s Copernicus disaster monitoring programme.

About 7,000 people have been evacuated from their homes on the island, which has a population of around 85,000 people.

The eruption has covered a large area with volcanic ash and has been accompanied by dozens of minor earthquakes most days.

La Palma airport has had to close twice since the eruption began and airlines have sporadically had to cancel flights.

The head of the regional government of the archipelago, Angel Victor Torres, said Sunday that scientists monitoring the eruption have seen no indications that it is abating.

“We are at the mercy of the volcano, it’s the only one who can decide when this ends,” he told reporters.

Spain’s central government and the regional government of the Canary Islands have so far earmarked 300 million euros ($348 million) for reconstruction on the island, which lives mainly from tourism and banana plantations.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has vowed to “spend whatever money is needed to reconstruct this marvellous island”.

“We will be there until we have rebuilt 100 per cent of everything which this volcano has destroyed,” he added during an interview with private television La Sexta on Thursday.

It is the island’s third volcanic eruption in a century, the last one taking place in 1971.

Four Migrants Dead, 21 Missing Off Coast Of Spain

 

The bodies of four migrants have been found off southern Spain, the coast guard said Friday, adding that it was looking for 21 others still missing after their boat sank.

Rescuers saved the three people from the sinking boat late Thursday, and appealed for other vessels to look out for the missing migrants, a coast guard spokeswoman said.

One body was recovered from the boat while the other three were found floating nearby, she added.

The vessel was first spotted around 70 kilometres (40 miles) west of Spain’s Cape Trafalgar by a passing merchant ship which sounded the alarm.

Two men were found alive on board the boat while a woman was rescued from the water.

READ ALSO: Investigation Suggests Norway Attack Prompted By ‘Illness’ – Police

The survivors said the boat had departed for Spain with 28 people on board.

A helicopter was dispatched in the search for the missing migrants, which began on Thursday night.

Spain is one of the largest gateways for migrants departing from North Africa and seeking a better life in Europe.

Migrant boats are tempted in part by the narrowness of the Strait of Gibraltar, a 13-kilometre-wide waterway that separates Europe and Africa, despite strong currents that sink many boats.

More than 27,000 migrants have arrived by sea in continental Spain and the Balearic and Canary Islands between January and the end of September, a 54 percent increase over the same time in 2020, according to interior ministry figures.

The International Organization for Migration says at least 1,025 migrants have died trying to reach Spain in 2021, making it the “deadliest year” on the migratory route.

The route to Spain’s Canary Islands in the Atlantic off the coast of Morocco is especially dangerous.

According to Caminando Fronteras, a Spanish NGO that monitors SOS calls from migrants at sea, more than 2,000 people have died or gone missing trying to reach the Canaries in 2021.

Thousands Locked Down As La Palma Volcano Destroys Cement Works


This image grab taken from a video released by the Spanish Geological and Mining Institute (IGME-CSIC) shows one of the lava streams flowing and carrying massive block stones after a cone collapsed in the north side of the Cumbre Vieja volcano, in the Canary Island of La Palma, on October 11, 2021. Handout / Spanish Geological and Mining Institute (IGME-CSIC) / AFP

 

Up to 3,000 residents of the Spanish island of La Palma on Monday were ordered to stay indoors after lava from a volcano destroyed a cement works, raising fresh fears of toxic gases.

La Cumbre Vieja volcano began erupting on September 19, forcing 6,000 people from their homes as the lava scorched its way across 600 hectares (1,400 acres) of land.

Miguel Angel Morcuende, head of the cell handling the crisis, told journalists Monday that part of the cement factory had gone up in flames.

“Consequently, and until we can analyse if the air quality allows for normal life, we have decided to lock down,” he added.

This image grab taken from a video released by the Spanish Geological and Mining Institute (IGME-CSIC) shows an aerial view of one of the lava streams flowing and carrying massive block stones after a cone collapsed in the north side of the Cumbre Vieja volcano, in the Canary Island of La Palma, on October 11, 2021.Handout / Spanish Geological and Mining Institute (IGME-CSIC) / AFP

 

The order concerns between 2,500 and 3,000 people living near the cement works on the west of the island in the Canaries archipelago, he said.

On Saturday, part of the volcano’s cone collapsed, sending new rivers of lava pouring down the slopes towards an industrial zone.

Flights to the island resumed on Saturday after two days on hold because of the ash blasted from the volcano.

Despite the damage from the eruption — more than 1,200 buildings have been destroyed, say local officials — no has so far been killed or injured in the disaster.

This is the third volcanic eruption on La Palma Island, home to 85,000 people, in a century, although the last one dates back to 1971.

AFP

France Beat Spain To Win Nations League

French players celebrate with the trophy at the end of the Nations League final football match between Spain and France at San Siro stadium in Milan, on October 10, 2021. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

 

France won the Nations League on Sunday after coming from a goal down to beat Spain 2-1 in Milan.

Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe struck to claim the title for world champions France after Mikel Oyarzabal put Spain ahead midway through the second half.

The win will ease some of the pain created by an early exit from Euro 2020 at the hands of Switzerland and highlight just how powerful France are going forward.

Les Bleus came out on top of a match at the San Siro which came to life after Oyarzabal slid home the opener in the 64th minute.

READ ALSO: World Cup In 2022 ‘Will Be My Last’, Says Neymar

As well as the two goals from their superstar attackers, France had other opportunities to score through Mbappe before a frantic finish in which Spain launched an assault on the French goal.

Didier Deschamps can thank Hugo Lloris the match didn’t go into extra-time after the France captain pulled off a fine stoppage time save to deny Yeremi Pino a late leveller.

Earlier Italy took third place after beating Belgium 2-1 in Turin through goals from Nicolo Barella and Domenico Berardi.

AFP

Spain Ends Italy’s Unbeaten Run, Reach Nations League final


Sapin’s teammates celebrate after wining at the end of the UEFA Nations League semifinal football match between Italy and Spain at the San Siro (Giuseppe-Meazza) stadium in Milan, on October 6, 2021. Marco BERTORELLO / POOL / AFP

 

Spain brought Italy’s record 37-match unbeaten run to an end on Wednesday with a 2-1 win to reach the Nations League final.

Ferran Torres’ first-half brace won the Final Four clash for Spain at the San Siro, where Luis Enrique’s side will face either France or Belgium in Sunday’s final.

Lorenzo Pellegrini pulled a goal back with seven minutes left but the European champions failed to complete what would have been a memorable comeback.

Italy, who beat Spain in the Euro 2020 semi-finals, had to play over half the match with 10 men after Leonardo Bonucci was sent off in the 42nd minute for elbowing Sergio Busquets in the face during an aerial challenge.


Italy’s teammate react at the end of the UEFA Nations League semifinal football match between Italy and Spain at the San Siro (Giuseppe-Meazza) stadium in Milan, on October 6, 2021.
FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

The match was played in a strange atmosphere as AC Milan fans in the stadium harangued Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma throughout his return to the San Siro following his move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Donnarumma, who is considered one of the world’s best goalkeepers and won the Player of the Tournament award at the Euro, left Milan as a free agent in the summer and his departure left a bad taste in the mouth of supporters who loudly booed and whistled his every touch of the ball.

World champions France take on Belgium at Juventus’ Allianz Stadium in Turin on Thursday night.

AFP

Spain Lifts National Restrictions On Stadium Attendance

Spain supporters cheer ahead of the UEFA EURO 2020 semi-final football match between Italy and Spain at Wembley Stadium in London on July 6, 2021. Andy Rain / POOL / AFP

 

Spanish football clubs will be allowed to open their stadiums up to 100 percent capacity from this weekend after national restrictions brought in to combat the Covid-19 pandemic were lifted on Wednesday.

Local restrictions, however, remain in place which is likely to prevent cash-strapped Barcelona from throwing their doors fully open just yet.

The Spanish Inter-Territorial Council (CISNS), the body that brings together political leaders in charge of health from all regions of Spain, set the attendance limits for La Liga football, basketball “and other sporting events up to 100 percent outdoors, and 80 percent indoors”, it said in a statement.

The measures will run until the end of October when they will be re-assessed.

However, other measures, such as the obligation to wear a mask and to respect a distance of 1.5 metres (five feet) between each person, have been kept in place which logically compromises the notion of matches taking place in full stadiums.

The application of this easing will depend on the health authorities of each autonomous region of Spain giving their consent.

Catalonia, the home of Barcelona and Espanyol, announced Wednesday that it will keep its attendance limit of 60 percent in open-air stadiums of more than 10,000 people.

The Basque Country, which has three La Liga clubs in Athletic Bilbao, Alaves and Real Sociedad, also announced Wednesday that it will keep its current attendance limit of 60 percent.

Spain was hard hit in the early months of the pandemic and more than 86,000 people have died of Covid-19.

AFP

Volcano Destroys 320 Buildings On Spanish Island

The volcano that went on erupting on September 19 in Cumbre Vieja mountain range, spewes gas, ash and lava over the Aridane valley as seen from Los Llanos de Aridane on the Canary Island of La Palma, on September 22, 2021. (Photo by DESIREE MARTIN / AFP)

 

The vast wall of molten lava creeping down the slopes of Spain’s La Palma island has destroyed 320 buildings and over 154 hectares of land, Europe’s volcano observatory said Wednesday.

The property damage figure was twice that given 24 hours ago by Copernicus, which uses sky radar imagery to monitor the extent of lava coverage and posted the update on Twitter.

The Cumbre Vieja volcano, which erupted on Sunday, straddles a ridge in the south of La Palma, one of seven islands that make up the Canary Islands, Spain’s Atlantic archipelago which lies off the coast of Morocco.

Experts are expecting the scale of damages to rise in the coming hours as the slow-moving but unstoppable mass of white-hot rock, slides towards the island’s western coast.

“In the last few hours it has slowed down a lot, it is now moving at 300 metres (984 feet) an hour, maybe less, because it is reaching a very flat area but it is gaining height,” David Calvo, an expert with the Involcan volcanology institute, told AFPTV.

“There are areas where it is already 15 metres thick.”

If the lava — which has a temperature of 1,100 degrees Celsius (2,012 degrees Fahrenheit) — continues to move at the same pace, it will reach the sea later on Wednesday or possibly Thursday, he said, warning it would have an explosive effect.

“There will be a huge battle between the water and the lava. With those contrasting temperatures, it causes massive explosions and a fragmentation of the lava which shoots out like missiles.”

The eruption on this island of some 85,000 people, the first in 50 years, has forced some 6,000 people out of their homes, but so far nobody has been injured.

Involcan believes the eruption of La Cumbre Vieja could last “between 24 and 84 days”.

“Dealing with this crisis won’t end when the lava reaches the sea,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Tuesday.

“It will end when we’ve managed to rebuild everything the volcano has destroyed and will destroy.”

AFP

Volcano Destroys 100 Homes In Spain

Mount Cumbre Vieja erupts spewing a column of smoke and ash as seen from Los Llanos de Aridane on the Canary island of La Palma on September 20, 2021.
DESIREE MARTIN / AFP

 

 

A surge of lava destroyed around 100 homes on Spain’s Canary Islands a day after a volcano erupted, forcing 5,000 people to leave the area, local authorities said on Monday.

The Cumbre Vieja erupted around 3:00 pm (1400 GMT) on Sunday, sending vast plumes of thick black smoke into the sky and belching molten lava that oozed down the mountainside on the island of La Palma.

The island is one of the most westerly of the Atlantic archipelago off the coast of Morocco.

“Right now we have evacuated 5,000 people and around 100 homes have been destroyed,” said Lorena Hernandez Labrador, a councillor in Los Llanos de Ariadne, a town several kilometres from the volcano.

Images on Twitter showed slow-moving lava creeping down the mountainside, pockets of flame erupting as it rumbled ever closer towards a group of homes standing just metres away.

Elsewhere, piles of glowing lava surged onto the patio of a house.

Describing the scene as “desolate”, La Palma’s top official Mariano Hernandez Zapata said the lava “on average about six metres (20 feet) high”.

“This tongue of lava is engulfing everything in its path. It’s tragic to see how many homes have just gone up in smoke,” he told Spain’s public television.

It also consumed a local primary school where 25 children were enrolled, the headmistress told Cadena Ser radio.

“Up to about two hours ago, we thought it was going to be saved, but unfortunately it has been completely engulfed. It’s totally destroyed,” said Angeles Nieves, her voice breaking.

There was huge anguish among the thousands of people evacuated from their homes, with many wondering if they would have anything to go back to.

– ‘You have three minutes’ –
“Right now, we’re watching the news and the lava is 700 metres from our home. I’m really worried because we don’t know I don’t know what’s going to happen to it,” Angie Chaux, 27, who left with her husband and three-year-old son, told AFP.

“The police gave us three minutes to get our things. It was all very fast.”

La Cumbre Vieja straddles a ridge in the south of La Palma, which is home to around 80,000 people.

Experts had been keeping a close watch on the volcano after observing a recent upsurge in seismic activity and magma displacements.

An “earthquake swarm” — a sequence of seismic events occurring over a short period — began on September 11.

Since then, there have been tens of thousands of tremors, the strongest with a magnitude of nearly four, the Involcan volcanology institute said.

The last eruption on La Palma was in 1971 when another part of the same volcanic range — a vent known as Tenegia — erupted on the southern side of the island.

– Fleeing to safety –
Yahaira Garcia, 34, who runs a winery in the northwestern foothills of the volcano, decided to leave just before the eruption after a night of continuous quakes.

“My house shook so much it felt like it was going to collapse,” she told AFP, saying she had rushed over to her parent’s house to help them get out.

“With us, we took four goats, two pigs, 20 chickens, 10 rabbits, four dogs and a turtle,” she said.

“The images are really disturbing. Now they are saying the volcano could continue erupting for three months.

“I haven’t slept for two nights, I can’t even shut my eyes.”

Local officials believe the lava was likely to move southwest towards inhabited and wooded areas, before reaching the coast.

According to Involcan, the lava flows were moving at about 700 metres per hour and had a temperature of nearly 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,830 degrees Fahrenheit).

Ahead of the eruption, local authorities had urged the public to stay away from the areas surrounding the volcano.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez cancelled a scheduled trip to New York for the United Nations General Assembly after the eruption.

He arrived at the scene late Sunday evening to assess the situation.

The Canaries last recorded a volcanic eruption in 2011, undersea off El Hierro Island.

Messi Set For PSG Debut

Messi is expected to lead PSG’s push for a first Champions League title. Photo: Instagram/PSG

 

Lionel Messi was named in the Paris Saint-Germain squad for the first time on Sunday morning suggesting the breathless wait for his Ligue 1 debut could end at Reims.

Coach Mauricio Pochettino had indicated on Saturday that all three of PSG’s golden trio would be in his squad for the first time.

On Sunday he made that official, naming Neymar, who also has yet to play this season and Kylian Mbappe in his squad for the trip to Reims for the evening match.

With two days left in the transfer window, this could be the only time the three stars play as team-mates.

While Messi, who joined PSG on August 10, is poised to say hello to French football, Mbappe could be bidding it adieu.

The World Cup winner’s future is still uncertain after Real Madrid reportedly made a bid to buy him. The rumoured fee would be the biggest paid for a player by any club other than PSG.

PSG are taking 22 players to Reims, but only 11 starts with nine more on the bench.

On Saturday Pochettino said Messi was “very motivated” to play.

READ ALSO: Ten-man Chelsea Hold Liverpool At Anfield

(From L) Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Kylian Mbappe, Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi, Paris Saint-Germain’s Moroccan defender Achraf Hakimi, and Paris Saint-Germain’s Spanish midfielder Pablo Sarabia attend a training session at the Camp des Loges Paris Saint-Germain football club’s training ground in Saint-Germain-en-Laye on August 13, 2021. (Photo by Bertrand GUAY / AFP)

 

Since it seemed unlikely the coach would take the six-time Ballon D’Or winner along and not put him on the team sheet, the question that remained tantalizingly unanswered was: whether Messi would start at the Stade Auguste-Delaune, or would he tease from the substitutes’ bench?

Messi and Neymar both missed the first two league games as they worked their way to match fitness after demanding summers. They met in the Copa America final on July 10 in Brazil as Argentina won to earn Messi his first international trophy.

They will be reunited as team-mates for the first time since PSG broke the bank to attract Neymar for Barcelona in 2017.

The possible symbolism of Messi’s first official appearance for PSG in Reims, where French kings were traditionally crowned, was not lost on sports daily L’Equipe.

“Leo I, a king in Reims”, it wrote on its front page declaring his possible selection a “coronation”.

Le Parisien pointed to the local club’s history as home to “three of the most beautiful artists of this game”. A Reims squad led by Just Fontaine and Raymond Kopa reached the first-ever European Cup final in 1956.

AFP

Brazil Beat Spain To Retain Olympic Football Crown

Brazil's gold medallists (C) celebrate on the podium during the medal ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games men's football competition at Yokohama International Stadium in Yokohama, Japan, on August 7, 2021. LOIC VENANCE / AFP
Brazil’s gold medallists (C) celebrate on the podium during the medal ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games men’s football competition at Yokohama International Stadium in Yokohama, Japan, on August 7, 2021. LOIC VENANCE / AFP

 

Brazil won Olympic men’s football gold for the second consecutive tournament as substitute Malcom struck the winner in a 2-1 victory over Spain after extra time on Saturday.

Matheus Cunha took advantage of a defensive lapse to score in first-half stoppage time after Richarlison smashed a penalty over the crossbar for Brazil.

Spain equalised on the hour when Mikel Oyarzabal crashed home a thumping volley, but former Barcelona forward Malcom secured Brazil the title with his goal in the 108th minute.

Brazil, who won gold on home soil at Rio 2016, became the fifth team to retain their Olympic crown on another triumphant night in Yokohama, where they claimed the last of their five World Cup titles in 2002.

After Neymar led Brazil to Olympic gold, this time it was the turn of Dani Alves to captain the country in the final against a strong Spain side featuring six players who participated at Euro 2020.

Unbeaten at the Olympics against a European nation since 1988, Brazil almost fell behind when Diego Carlos scooped the ball over his own goalkeeper before hooking off the line as Oyarzabal tried to pick out Dani Olmo.

A poor clearance from Unai Simon allowed Richarlison to set up Douglas Luiz, whose spinning effort was turned behind by the Spain goalkeeper.

Brazil needed penalties to get past Mexico in the semi-finals, and they were awarded a spot-kick here after a VAR review as Simon flattened Cunha while attempting to punch away a cross.

But Everton forward Richarlison wasted the chance to add to his competition-leading five goals by blazing well over.

There was no let-off for Spain a second time though when Alves sent the ball high into the area, where a hesitant Pau Torres gave Cunha time to control and slot into the corner.

Marco Asensio, Spain’s match-winner in extra time against Japan in the previous round, lasted just 45 minutes as Carlos Soler came on for the second half, inadvertently getting in the way of a goalbound effort from Oyarzabal.

Brazil nearly doubled their lead when a quick break resulted in Simon making a terrific stop with his legs to divert Richarlison’s shot onto the bar.

Spain youngster Bryan Gil, who will join Tottenham Hotspur on his return from Japan, rattled the bar two minutes from the end, as an extra 30 minutes was required for the fifth time in eight knockout matches.

Malcom, who endured a difficult spell at Barcelona in 2018-19 before leaving for Zenit Saint Petersburg, ran onto a long ball from Antony, racing past Jesus Vallejo and firing past Simon to etch his name into the history books.

AFP

In Spain, Dozens Of Villages Struggle For Drinking Water

Every Monday, the villagers walk to the main square in Lastras to buy multipacks of mineral water in 1.5 litre bottles PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU AFPSpain

 

 

Less than two hours from Madrid, 76-year-old Francisca Benitez has to brush her teeth every night with bottled water because her village has no supply of drinking water. 

In Lastras de Cuellar in the central Castilla y Leon region, nitrates and arsenic have made the water undrinkable for the village’s residents, who number 350 in winter and nearly 1,000 in summer.

And across the country, dozens of villages are suffering the same fate because groundwater resources are at risk from agricultural pollution, a lack of water quality controls and drought.

Every Monday, the villagers walk to the main square in Lastras to buy multipacks of mineral water in 1.5 litre bottles, sold at a discounted price, which some take away in wheelbarrows.

Alejandro Martin, 17, is there to help his 95-year-old grandfather bring home the precious resource which is then poured into a pan so they can prepare coffee.

Outside, clusters of empty plastic bottles dangle from the balconies alongside banners demanding access to drinking water.

“This is not normal in the 21st century!” protests Mercedes Rodriguez, 41, who belongs to a local residents association.

Mayor Andres Garcia also points to the “lack of (public) funding” which has slowed down a project to ensure drinking water supplies by the end of the year.

In Castilla y Leon alone, 63 municipalities were without running water in March, according to the region’s main television station.

National figures are not available.

According to the health ministry, a 2019 study of national water resources found that 67,050 samples — some taken from the same place on different dates — were undrinkable.

– Nitrates and manure –
Nitrate levels are a cause for concern, with nearly three out of 10 — 28 percent — of Spain’s groundwater monitoring stations registering a concentration close to or above the potability threshold.

Fully 22 percent of Spain’s overall surface area — which covers 506,000 square kilometres (195,000 square miles) — is exposed to nitrate pollution due to the nature of the soil or through agricultural activities, the environment ministry says.

And many are increasingly blaming agricultural pollution for the water crisis.

Lierta, a tiny village in the northeastern Aragon region, has been deprived of drinking water since 2018 because of nitrate pollution and residents are currently fighting plans to set up a new farm for 3,000 pigs.

Under a scorching sun, a lone dog can be seen drinking from a fountain in a landscape dominated by vast golden wheatfields that are dotted with pig farms.

In this area, there are already “close to 20,000 pigs and just 50 villagers”, says 68-year-old Bernard Mas, a member of the residents’ association that has just managed to get the farm project suspended for a year.

In a country where pork products reign supreme, “intensive livestock farming and huge macro farms are a real problem” for local water quality due to the pollution from manure, says Luis Babiano, head of the Spanish Association of Public Water Supply and Sanitation Operators (AEOPAS).

But excess nitrates in water sources are mainly the result of “fertiliser use in agricultural activity” which is “the main problem” in the countryside, an environment ministry report found late last year.

– ‘Without water, we’ll disappear’ –
“In rural areas, water resource management is lacking and residents of some small settlements may be drinking non-potable water without knowing it,” the report said.

And such concerns have even reached Brussels with the European Commission last year issuing an ultimatum, warning Spain to improve its water quality control or face heavy fines.

In the long term, drought could also jeopardise the quality of Spain’s water resources, especially as the impact of climate change gathers pace.

If the quantity of water decreases but the level of harmful substances does not, proportionally it means the level of such pollutants in Spain’s water resources increases, explains Babiano.

In Lastras, Rodriguez fears that the water shortage could spell the end of their little community.

“A village that doesn’t have water is destined to disappear. Who is going to come and live in a village where they don’t have tap water?” she wonders.

“Who is ever going to set up a business here?”

Spanish PM Reshuffles Government

In this handout image released by La Moncloa on July 10, 2021 Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez makes an official statement to announce a reshuffle in his cabinet during a press conference at La Moncloa Palace, in Madrid. (Photo by Borja Puig de la BELLACASA / LA MONCLOA / AFP)

 

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Saturday reshuffled his government for the first time since the left-wing coalition came to power in January 2020.

Sanchez said it represented “a generational renewal” because the mean age of the ministers was now 50 instead of 55.

And women now make up 63 percent over 54 percent in the previous government.

“This will make our country once again the reference for women-men equality,” Sanchez said.

His minority coalition is composed of Socialists and the radical-left Podemos party.

Podemos kept their five portfolios in the 22-member cabinet.

Foreign Affairs Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya was replaced by Jose Manuel Albares, who was Spain’s ambassador to France. Socialist Carmen Calvo, who was number two in the government, has also left the cabinet.

Sanchez presented the reshuffle to the king earlier in the day.

The Spanish government had been weakened over the past several months.

Early in May, Podemos and the Socialists were routed in regional elections in Madrid by the conservative Popular Party (PP).

The PP has surged ahead of the Socialists in opinion polls following that election — at the end of May, polls showed the PP and the far-right Vox together would win an absolute majority in parliament if a general election were held.

The government’s decision in June to pardon nine Catalan separatists has also drained support.

The pardons have been condemned by Spain’s right-wing opposition as well as by the Supreme Court, but Madrid hoped they would give impetus to talks with Catalonia’s new leader, Pere Aragones, who was more open to dialogue than his hardline predecessor.

Since Sanchez’s coalition came to power, it has relied in part on the support of ERC, a leftist Catalan separatist party, which in return demanded talks on resolving the separatist conflict in wealthy Catalonia.

A week after the pardons,  Aragones said separatists would resume talks with the government in the second half of September.

An Ipsos poll in June found that 53 percent of Spaniards opposed the pardons, but 68 percent of Catalans were in favour.