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La Palma volcano news: Thousands evacuated as eruption sparks toxic gas fears

Live updates on Canary Islands eruption

Daniel Keane
Wednesday 22 September 2021 07:59 BST

The La Palma Volcano eruption is captured from an Observatory on Sunday

At least 10,000 people may have to be evacuated after a volcano erupted on the Spanish Canary Island of La Palma on Sunday, as authorities warned lava flowing into the sea could release toxic gas.

Over 160 homes have been destroyed since the eruption with some 6,000 people ordered to leave their homes in villages close to the volcano.

Lava streaming from the volcano is now close to reaching the sea, sparking concerns the flow could mix with saltwater to produce “explosions and the emission of toxic gases”, according to the crisis team at the Canary Islands Volcano Emergency Plan (Pevolca).

Experts have warned that a large explosion of water steam could be triggered once the lava tongue, which has a temperature of more than 1,000C, makes contact with the sea.

The steam plume resulting from the explosion could cause hydrochloric acid and small volcanic glass particles to fall, though it is unclear when this will happen.

Meanwhile, some 360 tourists were evacuated following the eruption and taken to the nearby island of Tenerife by boat on Monday, a spokesperson for ferry operator Fred Olsen said.


More evacuations as lava gushes from volcano

Lava gushing from the Canary Islands’ first volcanic eruption on land in 50 years has forced authorities to evacuate another part of El Paso municipality on the island of La Palma.

People from the neighbourhood of Tacande Alto were evacuated late Monday and early Tuesday after a new stream of lava started flowing from another crack on the slope of the Cumbre Viejo volcano.

“The lava on its path to the sea has been a bit capricious and has diverted from its course,” El Paso’s mayor Sergio Rodriguez told state broadcaster TVE.

The volcano has shot lava hundreds of metres into the air, engulfed forests and sent molten rock towards the ocean over a sparsely populated area of La Palma.

Around 6,000 of the 80,000 people living on the island have been forced to leave their homes to escape the eruption so far, though there have been no reports of fatalities.

Daniel Keane21 September 2021 10:04

Wall of lava ‘consuming houses and infrastructure’

Mariano Hernandez, president of La Palma island, has urged people to stay away from the area close to the volcano and described the scene as “bleak”.

Mr Hernandez told reporters that a wall of lava six metres (20ft) high was “consuming houses, infrastructure [and] crops in its path to the coast”.

It contradicted comments made by Spain’s tourism minister, who faced criticism 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.”

Daniel Keane21 September 2021 10:18

Tsunami sparked by eruption is ‘probable’ but not ‘imminent’

A tsunami caused by a partial collapse of the volcano following the eruption is “probable” though the chances of it happening at this point are “very small”, an expert has warned.

Professor Bill McGuire, who led a research team in the 1990s studying the Cumbre Vieja volcano, told The Times that a 500 cubic kilometre block of rock could fall from the west flank of the volcano and spark a tsunami - causing devastation to the east coast of North America.

Prof McGuire said he was “confident that a major tsunami-generating collapse” is “perfectly possible, even probable”.

However, he added that the “chances that collapse will occur during the current eruption are very small”.

Mike Burton, volcanology professor at the University of Manchester, said: “It’s very much for the local authority to make their own risk assessments, but I would say that there is an extremely low probability that a major tsunami would come because of this eruption.”

A screen grab from drone footage shows lava flowing following the eruption of a volcano in the Cumbre Vieja national park

Daniel Keane21 September 2021 10:31

Spanish PM visits La Palma and praises scientists at the scene

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez has visited the area affected by the eruption and praised scientists monitoring the volcano on La Palma.

Mr Sanchez cancelled a planned trip to New York to attend the UN General Assembly to visit emergency workers and residents on the island.

He said the work of scientists was “fundamental” in preventing casualties, and promised that his government would help the island to rebuild.

“Enough troops are available to face any type of contingency. Everything is going according to plan, and therefore the priority is to guarantee the safety of the citizens of La Palma who could be affected as a consequence of this eruption,” he said.

The Red Cross are “providing care and providing food for those affected who have had to leave their homes,” Mr Sanchez added.

Daniel Keane21 September 2021 10:50

Marine authorities establish ‘exclusion zone’ as lava heads for sea

Marine authorities on the island of La Palma have established an ‘exclusion zone’ of two nautical miles (3.7km) at sea amid fears that toxic gases could be emitted when the lava makes contact with the ocean.

This was done “to prevent onlookers on boats and prevent the gases from affecting people”, the president of the island’s council, Mariano Hernández, said.

He urged people attracted by the phenomenon to refrain from approaching to prevent a road collapse that has partly hampered the evacuation on Monday.

Experts have said that the lava is unlikely to reach the sea until Monday, though residents have been urged to stay away from the area.

Meanwhile, a witness told the Reuters news agency that they saw the flow of molten rock slowly engulf a house in the village of Los Campitos, igniting the interior and sending flames through the windows and onto the roof.

Daniel Keane21 September 2021 10:59

Watch: Footage shows lava pouring towards firefighters

Harrowing footage shared by the Gran Canaria fire department shows lava pouring down the street towards firefighters following the eruption at 3pm on Sunday.

No casualties have been reported, but local mayor Sergio Rodriguez has suggested that the lave “left absolutely nothing in its path” and suggested residents will not be returning home for a while.

Lava from La Palma volcano pours down street towards firefighters
Daniel Keane21 September 2021 11:18

Scientists warn lava could impact organisms on sea bed

Scientists onboard the Ramon Margalef research ship, which is currently studying the impact of lava entering the ocean, have warned of the ecological impact of the molten rock making contact with the sea.

Eugenio Fraile, a researcher at the Spanish Oceanographic Institute, told El Pais: “The biggest impact will be on organisms that live attached to the ocean floor and can’t move, and which will probably die.”

However, Mr Faile stressed that recovery “could be fast”.

He added: “Three years after the eruption of the underwater volcano in El Hierro, these organisms had almost completely bounced back.”

Daniel Keane21 September 2021 11:37

Series of small earthquakes reported late on Monday after eruption

A series of four small earthquakes was registered on La Palma late on Monday night and early on Tuesday morning, according to Spain’s Instituto Geográfico Nacional.

It came less than 24 hours after a volcanic eruption spewed lava and plumes of smoke into the air on the island.

The first took place at 9.32pm and reached a magnitude of 3.8. It was felt in the areas including Los Llanos de Aridane, Tazacorte and Barlovento.

Just before midnight, a second earthquake measuring 3 on the Richter scale took place in El Paso, which was also the site of a further quake in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Another earthquake too place at 6am and was felt in much of Los Llanos de Aridane and de El Paso.

Lava flows next to a house following the eruption of a volcano in the Cumbre Vieja national park

Daniel Keane21 September 2021 11:55

Tenerife air space ‘unaffected’ by eruption

Tenerife’s Tourist Office has issued a statement reassuring travellers that its air space has not been affected by the eruption in neighbouring La Palma.

It pointed out that there is 140km of sea lying between the two islands and stressed that normal tourist activity would resume.

“What is happening in La Palma has no impact on Tenerife,” the tourist office added.

“In any event, the situation on the island of La Palma is completely under control by the authorities.”

The Tenerife Tourist Office continued: “There are no people at risk and the procedure for evacuating tourist accommodation and residences is fully operational, with the aim being that all the residents and visitors will have accommodation available to stay out of any type of danger.”

Daniel Keane21 September 2021 12:06

Lava now covering 206 acres of terrain

Lava spewed out by the volcano on La Palma has now covered over 260 acres of terrain and destroyed 166 houses and other buildings, according to the European Unions Earth Observation Program, called Copernicus.

A new fissure opened after what the Canary Islands Volcanology Institute said was a 3.8-magnitude quake late Monday.

Meanwhile, the Canary Islands Volcano Emergency Plan (Pevolca) has warned that ash being spewed out by the Cumbre Vieja volcano could cause “injuries to respiratory airways” and “skin irritation”.

Pevolca has urged residents to avoid exposing themselves to ash to prevent any injuries.

Daniel Keane21 September 2021 12:23

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