‘People here take these things calmly, apart from those who could lose their homes’

The eruption of a new volcano on La Palma, in Spain’s Canary Islands, turned the lives of local residents upside down on Sunday. Hundreds spent the night sleeping at municipal soccer pitches, with a total of 5,000 people evacuated

Police officers stand guard near the volcanic eruption.
Police officers stand guard near the volcanic eruption.

A vertical column of smoke could clearly be seen from a distance on La Palma, in Spain’s Canary Islands, located off the northwestern coast of Africa. The island’s rugged terrain and forests had to make way on Sunday for an undisputed protagonist: the lava that was gushing from the new volcano that began to erupt and was threatening areas such as Jedey and El Paraíso in the municipality of El Paso. The noise of the flowing lava could be heard dozens of kilometers away.

The event turned the lives of the island-dwellers upside down yesterday. The area is a favorite of hikers and mountain-climbers. Local residents were constantly sharing videos of the latest images of the lava and smoke as it advanced and surrounded inhabited areas. Hundreds of people who live in areas such as Puerto Naos and La Bombilla were sleeping last night in municipal soccer pitches, at the base of the new volcano, which was threatening nearby houses. The schools in these two municipalities will also be noticing something different: classes have been canceled for Monday.

A live feed of the volcano on La Palma.

“We are relaxed, a little bit cold, but people take these things calmly, apart from those who could lose their homes,” Alejandro, a store clerk in Los Llanos, explains over the phone.

“Things are dangerous up there,” states a police officer, who is stopping people from accessing areas closer to the volcano. “Look at me, I’m covered in ash,” he adds. “It’s exciting,” says Mónica, a teacher on the island. “But it’s also worrying, because there are a lot of houses that are threatened by the lava.”

Things are dangerous up there
Police officer

The new volcano on the island of La Palma began to erupt on Sunday at 3.12pm, local time, in Montaña Rajada, in the municipality of El Paso. A small earthquake came first, in Las Manchas neighborhood in El Paso. Then a huge explosion followed by an enormous column of smoke and the explosion of airborne fragments known as pyroclasts. The magma created two fissures in the mountain, from which the lava began to flow. According to Involcan, the Canarian Volcanology Institute, in just two hours these two fissures became seven.

The emergency level was raised to red at 5pm and affected the municipalities of Tazacorte, El Paso, Fuencaliente, Mazo and Los Llanos de Aridane, home to around 35,000 people in total.

The new volcano erupted in an uninhabited area of the mountain just as people with reduced mobility were being evacuated from nearby areas. The Civil Guard evacuated around 5,000 people last night, but local authorities explained that no more evacuations were likely to be needed.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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