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Red Alert on La Palma island as volcano erupts spewing lava, ash and pyroclastic debris, local evacuations begin

Red Alert on La Palma island as volcano erupts spewing lava, ash and pyroclastic debris, local evacuations begin

A historic day for La Palma and throughout the Canary Islands, after more than 25,000 registered earthquakes, which have been monitored for more than a week, and in fact, were increasing in intensity over recent hours. Sunday September 19 2021, at 3:12 p.m. (Canary time), the first explosion started a new volcanic eruption. A column of smoke and ash rose several meters above the Cabeza de Vaca area of the municipality of El Paso, and there are already several fissures through which the lava has started to pour out. Pyroclasts, rocks, and debris have been ejected into the air, causing small fires, some posing a danger to homes. Evacuations had already begun and are now being accelerated in several areas.

The first explosion took place this Sunday in Cabeza de Vaca, in the upper area of the municipality of El Paso. It is a non-populated area, although there are some houses in the vicinity, the mayor of the municipality of El Paso, Sergio Rodríguez, has said.

The La Palma volcano currently has at least five mouths, according to the president of the Cabildo de La Palma, Mariano Hernández Zapata, who commented during a recess of the Volcanic Emergencies of the Canary Islands commission (Pevolca).

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has postponed his trip to the United States to go to La Palma. The flight had been planned for this afternoon and, instead, will travel to the Canary Islands to follow the evolution of events from La Palma, after the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano, which started this Sunday.

More than 700 residents have already been evacuated from the towns closest to the eruption on La Palma

Spanish air traffic control is recommending airlines not operate flights to La Palma, as a preventive measure no flights are being allowed to depart to the island of La Palma, where the volcanic eruption has begun, sources from Aena informed Spanish news agency Efe.

David Calvo, a scientist at the Canary Islands Volcanological Institute (Involcan) told Televisión Canaria that now “we have to estimate the volume of lava” in the new volcano, which has several eruptive mouths. So far up to six cracks have been counted. “We are already carrying out mapping and simulations to know where the streams will flow.” He explained that it is a Strombolian volcano similar to Teneguía, which last erupted in 1971. “The first hours are important to know where the lava will flow”, and it is possible that it will approach residential areas.

The mayor of El Paso indicated that about 300 people in total have been evacuated from the affected area, the settlements of El Paraíso and Cabeza de Vaca. The residents have been transferred to a local soccer stadium. As the lava passes over the main LP-2 highway, it enters the municipality of Los Llanos de Aridane. In addition, several fires have been caused by the expulsion of pyroclasts, some very close to homes.

The seismic swarm at Cumbre Vieja that began last Saturday, September 11, has led, in a rapid and energetic process, half a century after Teneguía, up until now the youngest surface volcano in Spain.

The sound of each explosion, the falling ash, and the spectacular images are being viewed all across the world right now.

La Palma’s new volcano

The Cumbre Vieja de La Palma is one of the most active volcanic complexes in the Canary Islands. Two of the last three eruptions recorded on the islands have occurred here, the San Juan volcano (1949) and the Teneguía (1971).

Since September 11, the National Geographic Institute and the Volcanological Institute of the Canary Islands have been registering a significant accumulation of thousands of small earthquakes in the vicinity of the Cumbre Vieja, with foci that began at a depth of more than 20 kilometers, but progressively increased to the surface.

Since the beginning of the week, the island has been on a yellow alert for volcanic risk in that area (level 2 of 4).

This morning, the authorities began to evacuate residents with mobility problems in the towns of the municipalities of El Paso, Los Llanos de Aridane, Villa de Mazo and Fuencaliente, just as a precaution.

In the historical records – dating back to at least the conquest of the Canary Islands in the 15th century – La Palma has been the scene of seven of the 16 volcanic eruptions that the archipelago has experienced in that time.

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