La Palma: Thousands evacuated and 100 homes destroyed as Cumbre Vieja volcano erupts

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Around 5,000 people on La Palma in the Canary Islands have been evacuated to escape the erupting Cumbre Vieja volcano.

The eruption started on Sunday afternoon and officials said about 100 properties had so far been destroyed by rivers of lava. No deaths or injuries have been reported.

The four villages evacuated included El Paso and Los Llanos de Aridane, with temporary shelters set up to house displaced residents.

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House engulfed by lava on La Palma

Lava with a temperature of more than 1,000C (1,800F) was still flowing at 700 metres (2,300ft) per hour on Monday, according to the Canary Islands Volcanology Institute, but mostly through unpopulated areas.

Explosions and clouds of acidic steam were expected when it meets the Atlantic Ocean around sunset.

Mariano Hernandez, president of La Palma island, also asked people to stay away, describing the scene in the area as “bleak”.

He said a wall of lava six metres (20ft) high “is consuming houses, infrastructure [and] crops in its path to the coast”.

Canary Islands President Angel Victor Torres told locals to “stay in your houses” on Sunday after people from all over the island began blocking roads trying to get close to the volcano.

People in areas where volcanic ash was falling were also told to stay indoors with their doors and windows closed.

“It is not foreseeable that anyone else will have to be evacuated,” Mr Torres added.

Lava rises following the eruption of a volcano in the Cumbre Vieja national park at El Paso
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Lava spews from Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma
Lava flows downhill following the eruption of a volcano in Spain
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Lava with a temperature of more than 1,000C (1,800F) was still flowing at 700 metres (2,300ft) per hour on Monday

Spain’s tourism minister faced criticism after telling a local radio station the eruption was a opportunity to attract visitors to the island.

“The island is open,” Reyes Maroto told Canal Sur radio, calling the sprays of lava “a wonderful show”.

“There are no restrictions on going to the island… on the contrary, we’re passing on the information so tourists know they
can travel to the island and enjoy something unusual, see it for themselves,” she said.

About 360 tourists were evacuated from a resort in La Palma following the eruption and taken to the nearby island of
Tenerife by boat on Monday, a spokesperson for ferry operator Fred Olsen said.

Another 180 visitors were facing the same prospect. Meanwhile local airline Binter cancelled four flights to and from the neighbouring island of La Gomera.

Residents watch lava following the eruption
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Residents were told to stay home and not block roads to watch the eruption

Garcia Egea, secretary general of the opposition People’s Party, posted an article on Twitter quoting the minister and asked: “Can someone confirm the minister said that while hundreds of people are losing everything they have?”

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez arrived on the island late on Sunday to meet Mr Torres to oversea rescue efforts.

He praised scientists for monitoring the eruption, saying their work was “fundamental” in avoiding casualties, and promised that his government would help local people rebuild their lives.

The prime minister delayed his departure for the UN General Assembly in New York to attend.

A 4.2-magnitude quake was recorded before the eruption, which took place in Cabeza de Vaca on the western slope of the ridge that descends to the coast.

Lava spews from the Cumbre Vieja volcano in La Palma, Spain
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Scientists said the lava flows could last for weeks or even months

La Palma had been on high alert after more than 22,000 tremors were reported in the space of a week.

Cumbre Vieja is part of a chain of volcanoes that last had a major eruption in 1971 and is one of the most active volcanic regions in the Canaries.

It lies in the south of La Palma, which is home to around 80,000 people.

Itahiza Dominguez, head of seismology of Spain’s geology institute, told Canary Islands Television that although it was too early to tell how long the eruption would last, prior eruptions had lasted weeks or even months.

Scientists said the lava flows could last for the same amount of time, but that the immediate danger to local people appeared to be over.


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