Disasters & Accidents

Anxiety reigns for La Palma residents as eruption devours homes

(Update 1: Adds details throughout, alters headline, lead)

El Paso, La Palma, Spain, Sep 21 (EFE).- Residents of the Spanish Canary Island of La Palma are anxiously watching as the lava flow devours homes, holiday villas and crops as it inches its way toward the Atlantic Ocean.

The molten rock flowing in two streams from the fissures that opened on the Cumbre Vieja volcanic ridge in the south of the island has slowed to a snail’s pace.

One of the streams, veering off to the southeast, is pouring downhill at a speed of just two meters per hour, according to Miguel Ángel Morcuende, the technical director of the archipelago’s volcanic risk prevention plan (Pelvoca).

A second flow fed by a new fissure that opened late Monday following a 4.1 magnitude earthquake has an average speed of 120 meters per hour and has entered houses in the neighborhoods of Todoque and Tacande.

“People are devastated,” Sergio Rodríguez, the mayor of El Paso municipality, told Efe.

Residents of those areas were evacuated Monday evening but briefly permitted to return to their homes Tuesday to collect as many belongings as possible.

Oscar, a resident of Todoque, told Efe: “I’m from here, was born here and have lived here all my life here.

“We all know each other, it’s a small village. We know about each other’s lives, how horrible this is and how difficult it is going to be to overcome it.”

The nearby area of Tajuya offers a viewpoint over the affected area and has doubled up as a platform for media to set-up cameras to report on the event. Volcanic ash fell like rain on the parts of the region on Tuesday as the eruption continued to belch lava down the hillside.

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