La Palma volcano eruption ‘could last three months’ as 12-metre high wall of lava bears down on village

Aftermath may be felt for up to 84 days, warns Volcanology Institute

Tom Batchelor
Wednesday 22 September 2021 18:31
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Volcano spews lava on Spanish island of La Palma

A volcanic eruption on the Spanish island of La Palma which sent rivers of lava burning a path through homes and villages could last for a further three months, experts have warned.

The Canary Islands Volcanology Institute (Involcan) said it based its calculation on the length of previous eruptions on the archipelago. Like the latest eruption, historic volcanic events have been followed by heavy lava flows and lasting seismic activity.

The institute reported that Tuesday night saw a strong increase in the number of smaller eruptions that hurl rocks high into the air. By Wednesday, Involcan said the volcano had become “more explosive with a large amount of ash in the atmosphere”.

Authorities say that dangers still lie ahead for residents, including earthquakes, lava flows, toxic gases, volcanic ash and acid rain.

Since last Sunday's eruption, powerful rivers of unstoppable lava – up to 12m high – have swallowed up 185 buildings and now covers 154 hectares.

Todoque – the last village between the approaching lava and the Atlantic Ocean – could be swallowed up by the molten rock.

Some 1,000 people were evacuated late on Tuesday from the area, bringing the total number of evacuated people to around 6,000.

The meeting of the lava, which has a temperature exceeding 1,000C, with a body of water could cause explosions and produce clouds of toxic gas.

Emergency services on the island attempted on Tuesday to divert some of the lava by using front-loaders to clear a path for the molten rock to follow, hoping to steer it away from properties. Officials said they didn't know if it would work.

The volcano has also been spewing out between 8,000 and 10,500 tonnes of sulfur dioxide – which also affects the lungs – every day, the Volcanology Institute said.

Additional reporting by AP

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