The lava flow from the volcano that erupted on Sunday on the island of La Palma, in Spain’s Canary Islands, was advancing slowly on Wednesday afternoon, to the point where it was no longer certain to reach the Atlantic Ocean.
Plumes of black smoke several hundred meters high continued to rise from this volcano, Cumbre Vieja.
Authorities said the suspended ash reduced visibility, and asked islanders to limit their car travel.
According to the latest report provided by the European System of Geospatial Measurements Copernicus, lava destroyed 154 hectares of land and 320 buildings, including many homes that were hastily abandoned by their occupants.
A total of 6,100 people have been evacuated since the eruption began, which has so far neither killed nor injured. The authorities said that among them, 400 were tourists who were relocated to the other island of Tenerife in the archipelago.
The damage from the volcanic eruption – the first since 1971 on this island of nearly 85,000 inhabitants – will already exceed 400 million euros.
“We can’t do anything”
Faced with this situation, firefighters during the night of Tuesday to Wednesday made a desperate attempt to divert a ten-meter-high lava flow to the village of Todok, one of those evacuated by the authorities and the last locality before the coast. , located about two kilometers away while the crow flies.
But the president of the Canary Islands, Angel Victor Torres, criticized the initiative. “In the face of the advancing lava (…) we cannot do anything,” he told a news conference. “No barrier, no trench” could stop the flow of lava, he added.
In fact, the lava will probably stop on its own. His slowdown, which was already very noticeable, in no way increased on Wednesday.
Initially, lava in the Atlantic Ocean, which authorities fear due to the fumes of toxic gases and the forecast they may cause, was scheduled to arrive Monday evening, then Wednesday or Thursday. But now is the time to be skeptical about it.
“We currently don’t have any certainty about whether or not the (lava) advance will go into the sea,” Miguel Angel Morquinde, director of the post-eruption emergency cell, said during a press conference.
The region’s government said in a statement that the lava flow was advancing at only four meters per hour on Wednesday afternoon and only traveled 15 meters overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday.
The latter, who advised the islanders to cover their noses and mouths when out, decreed a “two nautical-mile exclusion radius” about where the lava could come into contact with the ocean.
According to the Volcanic Institute of the Canary Islands (Involcan), an eruption of Cumbre Vieja can last “between 24 and 84 days,” with key to significant gas and smoke emissions.
Visit of King Philip VI
According to the institute, between 6000 and 11,500 tons of sulfur dioxide are spewed into the atmosphere every day.
The cloud, which has already reached the Moroccan coasts and the Iberian Peninsula, should rise towards the Balearic Islands and southern France, according to the forecasts of the Copernican Program.
According to the same source, this sulfur dioxide cloud should cover the entire western Mediterranean and a large part of the Maghreb on Friday.
King Felipe VI was expected to meet there on Thursday with the evacuees, and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who is currently in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, confirmed during a press conference that he would return to the island on Friday.
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