Disasters & Accidents

Lava from La Palma volcanic eruption devours scores of houses

Santa Cruz de La Palma, Spain, Sep 21 (EFE).- The lava flow from the volcano that erupted on the Spanish Canary Island of La Palma has destroyed 166 houses and scorched 225 acres (103 hectares) of land as it inches its way toward the ocean, the EU’s Copernicus Earth Monitoring Service said Tuesday.

Technicians from the archipelago’s volcanic risk prevention plan (Pelvoca) initially estimated that the molten rock had destroyed 100 houses, but they were not able to offer a specific calculation since houses in the path of the flow are scattered over a sparsely populated area.

The Cumbre Vieja volcano erupted Sunday for the first time in 50 years and forced around 5,500 people to evacuate their homes so far.

A new vent opened late Monday following an earthquake that had a magnitude of 4.1, the strongest since scientists began monitoring the tens of thousands of tremors in the region ahead of the eruption.

The lava flow, however, slowed down and did not reach the Atlantic Ocean by Monday evening as was expected.

Scientists at the Canary Islands Volcanology Institute (Involcan) estimate that the eruption is spewing between 7,997 and 10,665 tons of sulphur dioxide (SO2) into the atmosphere each day.

The surface temperature of the lava can reach highs of 1,113 C (2,035 F), and scientists have warned of toxic steam when it comes into contact with the ocean.

Since record-keeping began after the conquest of the Canaries in the 15th century, La Palma Island has been the site of seven of the 16 volcanic eruptions the archipelago has experienced.

La Palma, like the rest of the Spanish islands off the northwest coast of Africa, is of volcanic origin, and its estimated age of two million years makes it one of the youngest islands in the archipelago. EFE


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