The activity of the Cumbre Vieja volcano intensified this Friday.
The volcano, located on the island of La Palma, in the Canary Islands archipelago, erupted on Sunday, September 19.
Since then, the lava from the volcano has destroyed hundreds of buildings and several kilometers of road, and has forced the evacuation of thousands of residents of the island.
In addition, the La Palma airport “is inoperative due to ash accumulation,” reported the Spanish Airports and Aeronautical Navigation (Aena) agency this Saturday.
Flights to the islands of La Gomera, Tenerife North and Tenerife South have also been suspended.
On Friday afternoon, the Geological and Mining Institute of Spain (IGME) reported that “the explosiveness ”of the volcano, which also intensified the rain of pyroclastic material, composed of ash and rocks of various sizes.
The IGME indicated a “Increase in the explosivity index of the volcano”, which refers to the amount of material expelled and the height reached by the smoke column.
The fire service of the neighboring island of Tenerife announced on Twitter that they would suspend activities to avoid risks.
According to the IGME, this increase in explosiveness is associated with the appearance of two new eruptive mouths, which has forced the evacuation of about a thousand residents who still remained in three of the most threatened areas of Tajuya, Tacande de Arriba and Tacande de Abajo, reported the EFE Agency.
Authorities fear that the volcano cone crumble in the midst of an explosive episode unprecedented since the eruption began.
For his part, Pedro Sánchez, president of the government of Spain, announced that next week he will declare La Palma as “Catastrophe zone” and that it will undertake a special plan for the reconstruction of the island with “immediate” aid for those who have lost their homes or ways of life due to the volcano.
What happens on La Palma?
Lava has been flowing up the mountain and through towns since the Cumbre Vieja volcano erupted on September 19, casting lava jets and ashes in the air.
More of 6,000 people have been evacuated, including 400 tourists who have been transferred to the neighboring island of Tenerife.
La Palma, one of the westernmost and smallest islands in the Canaries, is known for not be so “tour“ like other islands in the archipelago.
In the images below you can see the lava – molten rock that turns black when exposed to the air – enveloping the villages and surrounding some buildings.
Some people they have lost everything.
An image by photographer Alfonso Escalero captured what has been called the “miraculous house”, because he managed to escape the lava flow.
The island’s farmers have scrambled to save banana, avocado and grape crops before the lava reaches the plantations, of which many islanders they depend for their livelihood.
How fast does lava flow?
The flow has passed through the towns of El Paraíso and Todoque and move slowly towards the sea, in some parts at about four or five meters per hour.
To the north, the 12-meter-high lava flow, which reaches 1,000 ° C, it has almost stopped.
As of this Friday, the lava stream was 3,800 m long and 2,100 m away from the coast, according to Spain’s Department of Homeland Security (DSN).
Approximately 240 hectares, with a perimeter of 15.7 km, have been affected, according to the DSN.
Some 420 buildings and 15.2 km of roads have been destroyed, according to satellite mapping service Copernicus EMS.
Now there is concern that when the lava reaches the sea it may create clouds of acidic and toxic gas, which can be dangerous if inhaled.
Gas columns can cause irritations in the eyes, lungs and skin.
A area of exclusion along the coast to prevent ships from reaching the area.
The eruption has also caused an ash cloud 4,500 m high and is thrown into the air tons of sulfur dioxide.
The cloud is now moving northeast towards the Mediterranean and the Spanish mainland, reported the State Meteorological Agency (AEMET).
How long will the rash last?
The Canary Islands Volcanological Institute (INVOLCAN) estimates that the eruption could last between 24 and 84 days.
Raúl Pérez, from the Geological and Mining Institute of Spain (IGME), said that as long as the eruption continues, it will continue slowly pushing the lava flow.
If the rash continues for months instead of weeks, at some point it could reach the sea, reported the EFE Agency.
In the run-up to the first lava flow, the seismic activity near the surface of the island increased significantly, as shown in the graph below.
Data from the National Geographic Institute of Spain show how a series of small tremors began to occur on September 11, under a mountain range known as Cumbre Vieja, leading scientists to believe that there could be magma pushing beneath the Earth’s surface.
This seismic activity gradually moved to the surface and, in the two days before the eruption, tremors were felt 100 meters below ground.
Although seismic activity is now low, the volcano continues to spew lava and the president of the Spanish government has warned that they will come “very long days ”.
The national government has promised help those who have lost their homes, and the local government is buying vacant homes as part of a resettlement plan.
The last eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano was in 1971 and lasted just over three weeks.
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