World

Erupting volcano on La Palma island turns 'more aggressive,' officials say

An erupting volcano on a Spanish island off northwest Africa blew open two more fissures on its cone Friday that belched forth lava, with authorities reporting "intense" activity in the area.

2 more fissures open, sending molten rock to the sea

Lava flows from a volcano on the Canary island of La Palma, Spain, on Friday. The erupting volcano blew open two more fissures on its cone Friday and was sending gas and ash up to 6,000 metres into the air, officials said. (Daniel Roca/The Associated Press)

An erupting volcano on a Spanish island off northwest Africa blew open two more fissures on its cone Friday that belched forth lava, with authorities reporting "intense" activity in the area.

The new fissures, about 15 metres apart, sent streaks of fiery red and orange molten rock down toward the sea, parallel to an earlier flow that reached the Atlantic Ocean earlier this week.

The volcano was "much more aggressive," almost two weeks after it erupted on the island of La Palma, said Miguel Angel Morcuende, technical director of the Canary Islands' emergency volcano response department.

Overnight, scientists recorded eight new earthquakes up to magnitude 3.5.

The eruption was sending gas and ash up to 6,000 metres into the air, officials said.

WATCH | Fresh fissure in volcano sparks new fear:

Fresh fissure in Spain's La Palma volcano sparks new fear

2 months ago
0:16
A new vent in the Cumbre Vieja volcano on the island of La Palma began pouring out lava that took a different path from previous flows, creating concern for further damage to the surrounding area. 0:16

The prompt evacuation of more than 6,000 people since the Sept. 19 eruption helped prevent casualties.

A new area of solidified lava where the molten rock is flowing into the sea extends over more than 20 hectares.

Masks, eye protection recommended

Officials were monitoring air quality along the shoreline. Sulfur dioxide levels in the area rose but did not represent a health threat, La Palma's government said.

However, it advised local residents to stay indoors. It also recommended that people on the island wear face masks and eye protection against heavy falls of volcanic ash.

The volcano has so far emitted some 80 million cubic metres of molten rock, scientists estimate — more than double the amount in the island's last eruption, in 1971.

The lava has so far destroyed or partially destroyed more than 1,000 buildings, including homes and farming infrastructure, and entombed around 709 hectares.

La Palma, home to about 85,000 people who live mostly from fruit farming and tourism, is part of the volcanic Canary Islands, an archipelago off northwest Africa that is part of Spain's territory. The island is roughly 35 kilometres long and 20 kilometres wide at its broadest point.

A waiter cleans the ash outside a bar, following the eruption of a volcano on the Canary Island of La Palma, in Los Llanos de Aridane, on Friday. (Borja Suarez/Reuters)

'Helplessness, fear, insecurity'

While life has continued as usual on most of the island while the volcano is active, residents of Los Llanos de Aridane, one of the worst-affected towns, have taken to carrying umbrellas and wearing eye protection as a precaution against the volcanic dust blanketing the streets and floating in the air.

"Last night, the ash was irritating my eyes a lot. I had to use eye drops, and my skin was stinging," said Matilde Gonzalez Tavarez, a 45-year-old nursing assistant visiting her mother at a care home in Los Llanos.

"It's helplessness, fear, insecurity. You don't know what's going to happen," she said, while street cleaners brushed away the carpet of black ash behind her.

Juan Antonio Perez Gonzalez, 56, who runs a floristry business in the town, fears the worst is yet to come.

"I can't put a good face on it or give you good news because this is a calamity," he told Reuters. He said many of the townspeople were preparing to pack up and leave.

With files from Reuters

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