La Palma volcanic eruption intensifies after three weeks

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The volcano on the Spanish island of La Palma, which erupted three weeks ago, disrupting the lives of thousands, continues to spew endless streams of lava without any sign of stopping.

Authorities on Sunday monitored a new flow of molten rock that worsened the destruction of more than 1,100 buildings. Everything in the path of the lava – houses, farms, swimming pools and industrial buildings in the largely agricultural area – was destroyed.

The collapse of part of the volcanic cone on Saturday sent a flood of bright red lava to flow from the Cumbre Vieja ridge which initially opened on September 19.

A view of the volcano
La Palma volcano erupted last month (Daniel Roca / AP)

“We cannot say that we expect the eruption that started 21 days ago to end anytime soon,” said Julio Perez, regional minister of security for the Canary Islands.

La Palma is part of the Spanish Canary Islands, an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of northwest Africa whose economy depends on Canarian plantain cultivation and tourism.

Some 6,000 residents were evacuated quickly after the initial eruption, and the new lava rivers did not force the evacuation of other residents as they remain in the exclusion zone created by the authorities.

People watch the volcano
People watch the lava flows (Daniel Roca / AP)

The scientific committee advising the government said that if the delta continued to expand out to sea, some parts could rupture. It would generate explosions, gas emissions and big waves, committee spokeswoman Jose Maria Blanco said, but should not pose a danger to those outside the no-go zone.

The tourism industry in the Canary Islands had already been hit hard by the pandemic, and authorities were urging tourists not to stay away.

“This eruption is having an impact on part of the island, but La Palma is still a safe place and can offer a lot to those who visit it,” said Mariano Hernandez, the island’s main authority.

The last eruption on La Palma 50 years ago lasted just over three weeks. The last eruption on all of the Canary Islands occurred underwater off the coast of El Hierro Island in 2011 and lasted for five months.


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