La Palma, Spain, Sep 22 (EFE).- The area affected by the lava flow on the Spanish island of La Palma has increased by 50% since the eruption of the volcano three days ago and experts predict it will continue for an average of 55 more days but could last up to 84.
This means the molten rock flowing in two streams from the fissures that opened on the Cumbre Vieja volcanic ridge in the south of the island could continue expelling lava until November or December.
Some 6,000 people have been evacuated from the affected areas so far, as residents anxiously watch the lava flow devour homes, holiday villas and crops as it inches its way toward the Atlantic Ocean.
Some 153 hectares (378 acres) of land is buried by rocks, fire and ashes, according to calculations by the Volcanological Institute of the Canary Islands.
Out of the 185 buildings damaged, 65 were people’s homes.
On Tuesday, the over 1,200 residents of Todoque were briefly allowed back into their homes to gather their belongings and essential documents as firefighters desperately attempted to channel the rapidly descending lava into a gorge to save the neighborhood.
The eruption has caused a large amount of ash and smoke emitting up to 11,500 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2) per day, according to Involcan.
Sulfur dioxide is a toxic gas dangerous for ecosystems and health, leading to respiratory illnesses including asthmatic reactions among others.
While the stream veering to the southwest has slowed down to a snail’s pace, the second flow fed by a new fissure that opened late Monday has an average speed of 200 meters per hour and is leading to the sea.
The new volcano was the first eruption on the Cumbre Vieja ridge in 50 years.