A new volcanic fissure threatens the island
EL PASO, Canary Islands – As a new volcanic vent opened and unstoppable rivers of molten rock made their way out to sea, authorities on a Spanish island warned on Tuesday that other dangers await residents, including earthquakes, lava flows, toxic gases, ash volcanoes and acid rain.
Several small earthquakes rocked the island of La Palma in the Atlantic Ocean off northwest Africa on Tuesday, keeping nerves sharp after a volcanic eruption on Sunday. The island, which has 85,000 inhabitants, is part of the Canary Islands archipelago, a must-see tourist destination for Europeans.
Authorities said the new crack showed the area to be unstable and dangerous, and put people at least 2.5 km away.
Rivers of lava, reaching 20 feet high, tumbled down the hills, burning and crushing everything in their path, as they gradually approached the island’s most densely populated coast. One was going to Todoque, where more than 1,000 people live and where emergency services were preparing evacuations.
So far, the eruption has destroyed around 190 homes and forced the evacuation of 6,000 people.
“The truth is, it is a tragedy to see people losing their properties,” said municipal worker Fernando Diaz in the city of El Paso.
The advance of the lava has slowed to around 400 feet per hour, Canary Islands Volcanic Emergency Plan chief Miguel Angel Morcuende said, and is not expected to reach the Atlantic Ocean until today.
Canary Islands Head of Government Angel Victor Torres said “when (the lava) hits the sea it will be a critical moment”.
The meeting of lava, with temperatures exceeding 1800 degrees, with a body of water could cause explosions and produce clouds of toxic gases. Torres asked locals to remember the island’s previous eruption in 1971, when one person died after inhaling the gas emitted.
A change in wind direction blew ash from the volcano over a large area on the west side of the island, with black particles covering everything. Volcanic ash is irritating to the eyes and lungs.
The volcano also spat between 8,000 and 10,500 tonnes of sulfur dioxide – which also affects the lungs – every day, the Canary Islands Institute of Volcanology said.
Adding to the dangers, the emergence of new cracks in the lava-spewing earth cannot be ruled out, said Nemesio Perez, director of the institute.
The new fissure that appeared Monday night is 3,000 feet north of the Cumbre Vieja ridge, where the volcano erupted on Sunday after a week of thousands of small earthquakes. This swarm of earthquakes warned authorities that an eruption was likely and allowed many people to be evacuated, avoiding casualties.
The new crack opened after what the Institute of Volcanology declared to be a magnitude 3.8 earthquake.
Scientists say the lava flows could last for weeks or months.
Torres described the lava-affected area as a “disaster zone” and said he would ask for money to rebuild roads and water pipes, and create temporary housing for families who have lost their homes. house as well as their farmland.
Spain’s King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia are due to visit the region on Thursday.
Information for this article was provided by Barry Hatton of The Associated Press.