The volcano on the Spanish island of La Palma, in the Canary Islands, erupted this Sunday after a week of seismic activity, forcing the authorities to speed up the evacuation of 5,000 people as the lava flows approached the isolated houses of the mountain.
The Canary Islands Institute of Volcanology reported the eruption at Cumbre Vieja, a dormant volcanic mountain range. Its last eruption was in 1971.
Huge red columns covered in black and white smoke shot out along a volcanic ridge that scientists had closely watched after the accumulation of molten lava below the surface and days of small earthquakes.
Mariano Hernández, president of the Cabildo de La Palma, declared to the Televisión Canaria network that there were no immediate reports of injuries or deaths from the eruption. He said there were five eruption points, of which two were spewing magma.
The alert affects several municipalities in the sector with a population of 35,000 people in total, as reported by the newspaper El País.
The explosion took place in an area known as Cabeza de vaca, on the western slope of the volcanic ridge that descends towards the coast.
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For his part, El Paso Mayor Sergio Rodríguez said 300 people in immediate danger had been evacuated from their homes and sent to the soccer field. Roads were closed due to the explosion and authorities urged onlookers not to approach the area.
La Palma, with a population of 85,000 inhabitants, is one of the eight islands of the Spanish archipelago of the Canaries, off the west coast of Africa. They are 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Morocco.
Itahiza Domínguez, head of seismology at Spain’s National Institute of Geology, told local television station RTVC that, although it was too early to know how long this eruption would last, previous “eruptions in the Canary Islands lasted weeks or even months.”
The last eruption in the Canary Islands lasted five months and it occurred under the waters off the coast of the island of El Hierro in 2011.
The President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, canceled his trip to New York where he would attend the UN General Assembly to be able to make a presence there.
After days of what scientists call a “seismic swarm”, La Palma authorities had already begun evacuating residents with reduced mobility on Sunday.
The area near the southern tip of the island where the ridge is located is not densely populated. Residents of the five nearby towns had already been told to be on alert and prepared to leave their homes in the event of an eruption.
Before the eruption, a 3.8 magnitude tremor was recorded, as vibrations from seismic activity were felt on the surface.
The scientific committee of the Volcanic Risk Prevention Plan said the strongest earthquakes “are likely and can cause damage to buildings.” Experts also noted that a stretch of the island’s southwest coast was at risk of landslides and rocks.
With AP information.