La Palma eruption: River of lava flows down hillside
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The La Palma volcano in the Canary Islands chain broke a local record on Sunday when it entered its 85th day of the eruption. Cumbre Vieja began erupting on September 19 this year and the activity has since surged and ebbed periodically while spewing scorching lava onto the island.
To date, the volcano has destroyed almost 3,000 local buildings and forced several thousand people to abandon their homes and flee.
After several days of low-level activity, Cumbre Vieja suddenly sprang to life again on Sunday.
Its eruption produced loud explosions and left a vast cloud of ash high into the sky.
On Monday, a third of the island’s residents were once again ordered to stay at home due to “extremely adverse” air quality.
While volcano eruptions are unpredictable, Spanish scientists initially believed the La Palma eruption could last up to three months.
Mariano Hernández, the island’s senior government official, described the volcano as “stable” in recent days.
Speaking to the Spanish public broadcast RTVE, he said: “The fact is that all the key indicators have been low.”
“But the scientists won’t say exactly when it might come to an end.”
He also said that experts continue to measure the number and magnitude of earthquakes in the area and local sulfur dioxide levels.
In the past few days, scientists recorded 24 earthquakes, but none were felt by local residents.
Despite the long duration of the eruption, no injuries or deaths were reported due to the volcano.
Most of the area that was covered by rivers of lava, which are dumping molten rock into the sea, is farmland.
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For the rest of the island of La Palma, life continued largely as usual, except for a section of the southwestern side that was hit the hardest.
La Palma has been shaken by several small earthquakes as a new volcano vent opened up days after the first eruption at the Cumbre Vieja ridge.
The EU Copernicus rapid mapping service has revealed the staggering spread of lava across the island.
Although the lava hasn’t flowed particularly fast, it has spread across largely unpopulated areas of the island, as it heads towards the Atlantic Ocean.
According to the Canary Islands Volcanology Institute, the lava with a temperature of more than 1,000C flowed at a staggering 700 metres per hour initially.
It has since slowed and has yet to meet the sea.
But experts warn the lava could trigger a chemical reaction, causing explosions and the creation of toxic gases when it reaches the sea.
Around 24,500 citizens in Los Llanos de Aridane, El Paso and Tazacorte have been instructed to shut their windows and turn off air conditioning units to avoid inhaling toxic fumes.
Schoolchildren were also told to remain inside as all outdoor activities were suspended.
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