Las Vegas Review-Journal
Volcano erupts on Spanish island
Lava decimates some homes; 5K evacuated
LOS LLANOS DE ARIDANE, Spain — A volcano on Spain’s Atlantic Ocean island of La Palma erupted Sunday after a weeklong buildup of seismic activity, prompting authorities to step up plans for evacuating thousands as lava flows destroyed isolated houses and threatened to reach the coast.
New eruptions continued into the night.
The Canary Islands Volcanology Institute reported the initial eruption near the southern end of the island, which saw its last eruption in 1971. Huge red plumes topped with black-and-white smoke shot out along the Cumbre Vieja volcanic ridge, which scientists had been closely watching following the accumulation of molten lava below the surface and days of small earthquakes.
Víctor Torres, president of the Canary Islands, said that by 11 p.m. some 5,000 people had been evacuated from their homes.
La Palma, with a population of 85,000, is one of eight volcanic islands in Spain’s Canary Islands archipelago off Africa’s western coast. At their nearest point, the islands are 60 miles from Morocco.
A 4.2-magnitude quake was recorded before the volcanic eruption, which took place in an area known as Cabeza de Vaca on the western slope as the ridge descends to the coast. As the eruptions continued, at least two open mouths belched bright red magma into the air that then flowed in tight streams down the mountain slope.
Shortly after the initial explosion rocked the area, one black lava flow with a burning tip immediately slid toward houses in the village of El Paso. Mayor Sergio Rodríguez said 300 people in immediate danger were evacuated, roads were closed and authorities urged the curious not to approach the area.
The lava eventually reached some homes, causing at least one chalet with a tower to crumble. Authorities warned that the lava flows could also threaten the municipalities of El Paraíso, Alcalá and surrounding areas.
The last eruption on La Palma 50 years ago lasted just over three weeks. The last eruption on all the Canary Islands occurred underwater off the coast of El Hierro island in 2011. It lasted five months.