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Canary Islands

La Palma volcanic eruption going strong after three weeks

Some 6,000 residents were evacuated after the initial eruption on the Canary Island last month.


THE VOLCANO ON Spain’s La Palma island which erupted three weeks ago disrupting the lives of thousands of people is continuing to spew out endless streams of lava with no signs of stopping.

Authorities have monitored a new stream of molten rock on Sunday that has added to the destruction of more than 1,100 buildings. Anything in the lava’s path – homes, farms, swimming pools and industrial buildings in the largely agricultural area – has been destroyed.

The collapse of part of the volcanic cone on Saturday sent a flood of bright red lava pouring down from the Cumbre Vieja ridge that initially opened on 19 September. 

The fast-flowing stream carried away huge chunks of lava that had already hardened, and an industrial park was quickly engulfed.

“We cannot say that we expect the eruption that began 21 days ago to end anytime soon,” Julio Perez, regional minister for security on the Canary Islands, said.

La Palma is part of Spain’s Canary Islands, an Atlantic Ocean archipelago off northwest Africa whose economy depends on the cultivation of the Canary plantain and tourism.

Some 6,000 residents were promptly evacuated after the initial eruption, and the new rivers of lava have not forced the evacuation of any more residents as they are staying within the exclusion zone created by authorities.

2.62977771 People watch the lava flows

Government experts estimate that the largest of the lava flows measures almost one mile (1.5km) at its widest point, while the delta of new land being formed where lava is flowing into the Atlantic has reached 84 acres (34 hectares).

The scientific committee advising the government said that if the delta continued to grow outwards into the sea, parts of it could break off. That would generate explosions, gas emissions and large waves, committee spokeswoman Jose Maria Blanco said, but should not represent a danger to those outside the no-go zone.

The Canary Islands’ tourism industry had already been hard hit by the pandemic, and officials were urging tourists not to stay away.

“This eruption is impacting a part of the island, but La Palma is still a safe place and can offer a lot to those who visit,” Mariano Hernandez, the island’s leading authority, said.

The last eruption on La Palma 50 years ago lasted just over three weeks. The last eruption on all the Canary Islands occurred underwater off the coast of El Hierro island in 2011 and lasted five months.

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