Airport on Canary island of La Palma reopens but flights cancelled as volcanic eruption continues

The Cumbre Vieja volcano continues to spew lava and ash clouds a week after the initial eruption

Daniel Keane
Monday 27 September 2021 01:08
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Flight remain cancelled as a result of the eruption

The airport on the Spanish Canary island of La Palma has reopened as a volcano continues to spew lava and emit ash clouds over the surrounding area.

Thousands of people were evacuated from the region last Sunday after the Cumbre Vieja volcano began to erupt, sending lava flowing towards the sea.

Flights remain cancelled despite the reopening of the airport. Spain’s airport operator Aena said the airport had only reopened after teams had cleared ash off the runway.

Binter, the Canary Island airline, on Sunday said it would keep flights cancelled because of the conditions. Hundreds of tourists have already been ferried to nearby island Tenerife.

“The ash cloud originating from the volcanic eruption makes it necessary to maintain the temporary stoppage of flights to La Palma... The flights scheduled for today have been cancelled,” Binter said in a statement. “The stoppage will continue until conditions improve and allow flying, guaranteeing safety.”

Experts said on Sunday there were currently two active lava flows, one fast-moving flow to the north and a slower one to the south.

“We have a flow to the north that is moving quickly... this lava comes from more interior areas of the crater and its temperature is about 1,250 degrees,” said Miguel Angel Morcuende, director of volcano response committee Pevolca, at a news conference on Sunday.

The intensity of the eruptions has increased in recent days, with a further three villages evacuated on Saturday. Some 7,000 people have been forced to leave their homes, authorities said.

“Volcanic surveillance measurements carried out since the beginning of the eruption recorded the highest-energy activity so far during Friday afternoon,” emergency services said.

Drone footage captured by the Reuters news agency on Saturday showed a river of hot red lava streaming down the slopes of the crater, passing close to homes. Swathes of land and buildings are also seen being engulfed by a black mass of slower-moving lava.

No fatalities have yet been reported as a result of the eruption, though it has caused devastation to the island’s crop. Farming is La Palma’s main source of income, with nearly 7,413 acres planted with banana trees that provide jobs for over 10,000 of the island’s 85,000 residents.

Spain’s tourism minister faced criticism on Tuesday for telling a local radio station that the eruption as “a wonderful show”.

Insisting the island was “open”, Reyes Maroto told Canal Sur radio: “There are no restrictions on going to the island.

“On the contrary, we’re passing on the information so tourists know they can travel to the island and enjoy something unusual, see it for themselves.”

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