As many as 800 more residents evacuated in La Palma as lava from volcano approaches

The National Geographic Institute has detected around 20 more earth tremors in the eruption zone, one measuring as high as 3.9 on the Richter scale

A family in La Laguna loads their belongings onto a truck on Tuesday.Photo: EFE
Guillermo Vega

The team of experts monitoring the eruption of the new volcano on the Canary Island of La Palma, known as the Volcano Risk Prevention Plan (Pevolca), yesterday evacuated another 700 to 800 residents in the municipality of Los Llanos de Aridane due to the advance of a tongue of lava from the eruption. The molten rock was approaching the edge of the evacuated zone, and was nearing inhabited areas.

The order was the latest in a series of forced evacuations since the volcano on La Palma – part of the Spanish archipelago located off the northwestern coast of Africa – began to erupt on September 19. In total, around 6,800 people have been forced from their homes by the effects of the eruption, which has seen hundreds of buildings completely razed and the lava reach the sea, where it has already created a vast delta. At the weekend, parts of the northern face of the volcano’s cone collapsed, leading the lava to overflow in different directions. The collapse led to a “notable rise” in the amount of lava flowing out of the volcano, and mobilized loose blocks of molten rock tens of cubic meters in size, said sources at Pevolca on Sunday.

“We have carried out a preventive evacuation and with enough time in order to take out everything necessary,” explained Pevolca spokesperson Miguel Ángel Morcuende on Tuesday.

“We are very nervous,” said Víctor, a resident of La Laguna, speaking to EL PAÍS via phone. “We don’t know when the lava will arrive and we haven’t had any information these last few days.” Like his neighbors, he spent the morning loading essential items on to his car.

From 1pm to 7pm on Tuesday, residents were ordered to take everything they could – including their pets – from their homes, and travel to a meeting point at Campo de Lucha Camino León in Los Llanos de Aridane. Anyone who could not evacuate on Tuesday will be permitted to do so in the coming days, provided that the conditions are safe.

A live video feed of the eruption on La Palma.

The evacuees were also instructed to take their identification documents with them, any medication they require, as well as their cellphones, chargers, flashlights and several changes of clothes. They were likely to be moved to the military barracks at El Fuerte, on the outskirts of Santa Cruz de La Palma. They were also advised to lower their window blinds and close all doors before leaving, as well as turning off supplies of water, gas and electricity.

On Tuesday, there were three tongues of lava on La Palma that were relatively active. The first, Morcuende explained, “has lost energy” and lava was no longer flowing freely. This flow had surrounded the Montaña de Todoque, a mountain in the neighborhood of the same name, to the north and south.

Another lava flow, located next to the main one, was descending with greater force and “causing significant damage in agricultural and residential areas,” according to Pevolca. That was not causing safety concerns, however, given that it was flowing through an area that had already been evacuated.

The third flow, which had broken off from the previously mentioned one, caused the new evacuations on Tuesday. Despite it presenting “less power” than the other, it was threatening “some urban elements” that had not been evacuated until Tuesday.

Given the expected position of the plume it’s possible that the activity at La Palma airport could be compromised
María José Blanco from the Canaries National Geographic Institute

On Wednesday, the National Geographic Institute detected around 20 fresh earth tremors in the eruption zone, one measuring as high as 3.9 on the Richter scale.

On Monday, Pevolca ordered around 3,500 people to lock down at home in areas such as El Paso and Los Llanos de Aridane. The decision was taken due to the possible risk of toxic gases from the industrial area of Callejón de la Gata on the arrival of the lava. That lockdown was lifted on Tuesday morning.

The authorities confirmed on Tuesday that 169.44 hectares of agricultural land have already been affected by the advancing lava. Of these, 90.25 were banana plantations, 9.43 for avocados, 48.37 for vineyards and 21.39 for other crops.

The director of the Canaries National Geographic Institute (IGN), María José Blanco, said on Tuesday that fine ash from the eruption could reach as far as the west of the Canary Island of Tenerife. “Given the expected position of the plume it’s possible that the activity at La Palma airport could be compromised,” she explained.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez will today travel to La Palma, marking the fourth time he has visited the island since the eruption began. He is expected to reiterate his administration’s support and solidarity with the authorities and the residents affected by the natural disaster.

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