Volcano erupts on Atlantic island; lava destroys some homes

LOS LLANOS DE ARIDANE, Spain (AP) – A volcano on the Spanish Atlantic island of La Palma erupted on Sunday after a week-long increase in seismic activity, prompting authorities to evacuate thousands as lava flows destroyed and threatened isolated homes

LOS LLANOS DE ARIDANE, Spain (AP) – A volcano on the Spanish Atlantic island of La Palma erupted on Sunday after a week-long increase in seismic activity, prompting authorities to evacuate thousands as lava flows destroyed isolated homes and threatened to reach the coast. New eruptions continued into the night.

The Institute of Volcanology of the Canary Islands reported the first eruption shortly after 3 p.m. on the south end of the island, the last one to erupt in 1971 Scientists had been closely monitoring the accumulation of molten lava beneath the surface and days of small earthquakes.

Víctor Torres, President of the Canary Islands, said around 5,000 people had been evacuated from their homes by 11 p.m. Most, he said, found family or friends to take them in. The rest were in shelters.

With 85,000 inhabitants, La Palma is one of eight volcanic islands in the Spanish Canary Islands off the west coast of Africa. At their closest point, the islands are 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Morocco.

A 4.2 magnitude quake was recorded prior to the eruption, which occurred in an area known as the Cabeza de Vaca on the western slope as the ridge descends towards the coast. As the eruptions continued, at least two open mouths spat bright red magma into the air, which then flowed down the mountainside in narrow streams.

Shortly after the first explosion rocked the area, a black lava flow with a burning tip immediately slid towards homes in the village of El Paso. Mayor Sergio Rodríguez said 300 people in imminent danger have been evacuated, roads have been closed and authorities have urged those curious not to approach the area.

The lava eventually destroyed at least eight houses, according to local officials, causing at least one chalet with a tower to collapse. The authorities warned that the lava flows could also threaten the communities of El Paraíso, Alcalá and the surrounding area.

Carlota Martín was on an agricultural property owned by her family in Todoque, just downhill from the site of the eruption, when she heard a huge explosion.

“When we saw the column of smoke we thought it couldn’t be real, but it kept growing and we knew we had to get out of there,” she told the Associated Press. “You go, but you also look back because you want to see what will happen. Nobody knows how the lava flows will drain, but our property and many houses in the area could be in the way. “

Mariano Hernández, President of the island of La Palma, said there were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries, but the lava flows made him concerned “about the populated areas on the coast”.

“People shouldn’t get near the site of the eruption where the lava flows,” said Hernández. “We have serious evacuation problems because the streets are clogged with people trying to get close enough to see it.”

Itahiza Dominguez, head of seismology at the Spanish National Geology Institute, told Canary TV that while it was too early to say how long this eruption would last, previous “Canary Islands eruptions lasted weeks or even.” Months”.

The last outbreak on La Palma 50 years ago lasted a little more than three weeks. The last outbreak in all of the Canary Islands occurred underwater in 2011 off the coast of the island of El Hierro. It lasted five months.

The volcanologist Vicente Soler of the Supreme Council of Spain said: “The material appears to be very fluid, the lava flows will sooner or later reach the sea.” The Volcanic Risk Prevention Plan’s Scientific Committee said part of the island’s southwest coast was at risk from landslides and rockfalls.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has canceled his trip to New York to attend the UN General Assembly so that he can travel from mainland Spain to the Canary Islands.

“The people on La Palma should be assured that we have all the necessary resources and emergency personnel,” said Sánchez after a meeting with local officials on the island.

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Joseph Wilson reported from Barcelona. Renata Brito contributed to this report from Barcelona.

Jonathan Rodríguez and Joseph Wilson, The Associated Press

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