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Volcano in the Canary Islands: lava rivers devastate houses in La Palma

Lava emerged on Sunday with force from the bowels of the island of La Palma in which it is the first terrestrial eruption in the Canary Islands and Spain in the 21st century and in the last 50 years. It should be remembered that in 2011 there was an eruption on the island of El Hierro, which gave rise to the Tagoro volcano, but it was underwater. It did not have the spectacular nature of La Palma, with up to eight mouths of lava fountains that expelled magmatic material at a height of up to 500 meters.

The eruption has forced the evacuation of some 5,000 people and has affected 100 houses, 20 of which have remained destroyed in the town of El Paso, explained the president of the Cabildo, Mariano Hernández Zapata. He said the lava flow is expected to enter the sea off the coast of Tazacorte, possibly at Playa Nueva in Los Guirres.

“A lava flow with an average height of six meters it literally eats houses, infrastructures, crops that he finds on his way to the coast of the Aridane Valley, “he said.

Real catastrophe

The president of the Canary Red Cross, Antonio Rico, was also pessimistic, calling it “true catastrophe” this natural disaster and has warned of the possibility of generating “a deterioration of coexistence” on the island La Palma, for the many residents who will see their normal activity interrupted for an unpredictable time and who will “leave behind” a good part of their history and life.

“The damages are going to be material. We are talking about 17 or 20 million cubic meters of lava that they will continue to erupt, “Ángel Víctor Torres assured Cadena Ser.

Since the eruption this Sunday 5,000 people have been evacuated and at the moment no personal injuries have been registered. A contingent of the Military Emergency Unit (UME) has arrived on the island to deal with the volcanic eruption. The ash cloud It is 1,500 meters above sea level and moves southwest, so for the moment does not affect to the operation of the airport and flights.

The new volcano on La Palma has emitted into the atmosphere between 6,000 and 9,000 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2), according to the first estimate of the Volcanological Institute of the Canary Islands (Involcan). The scientific coordinator of Involcan, Nemesio Pérez, has explained that the eruption may be terminated when several days pass without producing sulfur dioxide emissions.

The eruptions have raised the island 19 centimeters. The lava continues to advance towards the coast.

Lava rivers

The lava, very fluid, generated flows that they passed at full speed and they have already reached the coast. In their wake they covered with lava housing, infrastructure and roads. There has been no personal injury since both people and animals they were evacuated with enough time.

More than 5,000 people had to leave their homes, although at first it could reach 10,000, the local authorities announced at dawn that it is not foreseeable that anyone else will have to be evacuated.

Various locations classes have been suspended no return date. As the lava flow progressed, evacuations continued. Some relaxed with relatives and those who did not have this option, went to the shelters set up on the island.

The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, traveled to the island to participate in the commission to monitor the crisis generated by the sudden eruption that occurred. Sánchez appeared to ensure that the situation it was controlled.

“We have done an exercise in anticipation It’s been a week now and everything is going according to plan. We have all the instruments and all the troops. People’s safety is guaranteed, ”he said, adding that the Military Emergency Unit would join, whose first troops should arrive this Monday.

The president canceled his planned trip to the United States to attend the opening of the LXXVI Period of sessions of the United Nations General Assembly.

The eruption took by surprise not only the palm tree population but also the scientific community that I watched the process closely since Saturday the 11th, when the seismic swarm that put them on alert was detected.

Both the members of the Instituto Vulcanológico de Canarias (Involcan) and the Instituto Geográfico Nacional (IGN) had warned that La Palma had entered a pre-eruptive process, but at no time did they think it would go so fast.

This was indicated by the director of the Volcanological Institute of the Canary Islands (Involcan), Nemesio Pérez. In fact, only five municipalities of the island were at a yellow traffic light – in which information to the population is intensified – when the volcano erupted.

Two hours before the volcano erupted, the scientific committee had decided to keep it that color. Hours after the eruption rose red, eruption in progress, without going through the orange.

The beginning

The volcano erupted in an area known as Cow’s head, in the core of Las Manchas. The area is close to where the San Juan volcano emerged in 1949. And in it, in recent days, thousands of earthquakes have been registered that were felt by the inhabitants of the island.

It was 3:12 p.m. (Canarian time) when the first explosion was heard. After her a first fissure opened on land, in Cabeza de Vaca, in Las Manchas, in the municipality of El Paso. The area was limited and hours before, people with reduced mobility had been evicted due to the sharp increase in seismicity.

And it is that, although the volcano had remained calm on Friday and Saturday, in the early hours of Sunday had sped up again. By midmorning there had been more than 130 earthquakes and five had been of magnitudes greater than 3, there was even one of 3.8. The intensities had also grown and the superficiality.

Some earthquakes occurred 1 kilometer deep and could be heard with a shocking sound. The deformation of the ground had also accelerated by five centimeters, to fifteen.

However, this time it did not happen as in El Hierro, which before the lava reached the surface gave other indications, such as the emission of gases or the previous tremor, helped to anticipate it.

The fracturing of the island of La Palma, which is already perforated by the historical eruptions from the island, has allowed the magma to rise faster and reach the surface without clearer precursors.

After the first fissure, between 200-250 meters long, they occurred six more by which pyroclasts emanated (the fragments of lava that shoot out and of different sizes), as well as ash and smoke, although at no time was the airspace of the Canary Islands closed or flights to or from La Palma were canceled, according to sources of Spanish Airports and Air Navigation (Aena).

As Pérez indicated yesterday, the forecast is that, as the hours go by, these different mouths that are authentic lava jets converge into one that becomes the “dominant”, as happened in the Teneguía.

The exit of pyroclasts for hours gave rise to small picon cones that have already changed the landscape of La Palma. His transformation will continue in the next few days if he continues to emanate lava.

The geologist of the Institute of Natural Products and Agrobiology (IPNA-CSIC) and member of the scientific committee that evaluates the situation of La Palma, Vicente Soler, was convinced that lava flows they will reach the sea.

“They will do it sooner rather than later,” said Soler, who clarified that the fusion of lava with water it will not be more dangerous. “There will be the emission of water vapor and white smoke will come out but there will be no explosion,” he said.

Soler stressed that the La Palma eruption has been “fortunate” despite the material damage it can cause to properties because it has been controlled and, moreover, it has not been explosive. “It has been of the Hawaiian type or benign strombolian ”, he indicated.

In the same sense, the director of Involcan, Nemesio Pérez, spoke about a “low explosive fissure eruption”. In a first balance, the IGN pointed out that with the lava expelled during Sunday in La Palma they could be filled 3,200 Olympic swimming pools.

“The magmatic reservoir that was quantified at 11 million cubic meters has been fed back from other deeper ones,” he said. Scientists do not know exactly how many days the eruption can last.

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