Update volcanic eruption on La Palma

by Lorraine Williamson
volcanic eruption
del canto chambers 2

SANTA CRUZ DE LA PALMA – It is now a month after the volcanic eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano began. Affected residents on La Palma say they have no past and no future since then. Everything they had is gone forever under a thick layer of lava. 

The number of people facing that sad fate is likely to grow with the current lava flow being most active. Furthermore, it is approaching the sea at a relatively rapid rate. Volcanologists point to a new ‘fajana’ and the need for people to be evacuated again or to lock themselves in their homes with all windows and doors closed and the air conditioning off. ‘Fajana’ is a term to describe a process of landslides or lava flows that alter the characteristics of the coast. The lava from the Cumbre Vieja has already formed a new delta of about 40 hectares on La Palma. 

No stabilisation visible yet 

Although the eruption has been going on for a month, volcanologists see no improvement in the situation. On the contrary. Once again, La Palma was ravaged by severe seismicity with many earthquakes whose strength was above 4 on the Richter Scale. 

According to Pevolca, who closely studies the developments of the tremors, eruptions and lava flows, “the original and first lava flow is still fed from within the volcano, although very weakly and the two more active lava flows are close to La Laguna and develop in western regions and northwest direction.” 

On Sunday afternoon, the lava flow that circles the mountain of La Laguna was 200 metres from the coast. This is closely monitored in order to be able to intervene immediately if necessary. When the lava hits the sea, explosions follow, releasing dangerous substances. If that is the case, some neighbourhoods along the coast of Tazacorte will be evacuated or placed on lockdown. 

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Tremors 

According to María José Blanco, the current level of seismic activity, together with the emission of ash along with the thermal flow, point to possible new collapses of the volcanic cone and movements of the ash as recorded on Saturday in Mazo. The quakes are in the same spot where the eruption started, but their epicentres are just north of it. Since midnight, 40 have taken place. Therefore, new fractures from which lava will emerge cannot be ruled out. Those epicentres are on average at a depth of 10-15 kilometres with the strongest measuring 4.6 on the Richter scale. No fewer than 35,000 earthquakes and tremors were recorded during the entire eruption. 

Airport 

According to meteorologists, it is expected the wind will turn to the east. This will provide a better situation for the airport of La Palma. After two days of complete inactivity, due to the poor visibility due to the ash cloud, flying is cautious again, airline Binter announced Monday morning. 

Damage so far 

According to official data, the area devastated by the lava has grown to a total of 742 hectares with a maximum width of the lava flow of approximately 2,350 metres. As a result, 1,086 buildings were destroyed, of which 878 were inhabited, 108 were agricultural, 54 industrial, 25 shops and catering, 9 for public use, and 12 for other use. However, images taken by the Copernicus satellite show that 1,835 structures have been destroyed, without specifying the type of buildings. In addition, 100 buildings are partially damaged or in danger of collapsing. 

At the moment, 324 people have been evacuated and are staying in Hotel de Fuencaliente and 17 people are staying in Hotel Los Llanos de Aridane. They are supervised by the Red Cross and other social organisations. 

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