Volcano erupts on Canary Island La Palma

by Deborah Cater
volcano erupts on La Palma, Canary Islands

PROVINCIA DE SANTA CRUZ DE TENERIFE – Due to increased seismic activity in recent weeks, it was feared the volcano Cumbre Vieja on La Palma could erupt. This afternoon at 3:10 pm, a column of ash and lava rose from the crater.

The eruption was heralded by days of intensifying seismic activity and a few more powerful earthquakes that also occurred closer to the surface. The Cumbre Vieja has been dormant for fifty years. It has now erupted in the area of ​​Las Manchas in the municipality of El Paso. 

Pyroclasts and magma have been ejected through five fissures, two of them with great force. A lava flow has already formed going down the slope and there is concern about the possibility of fire in the area that is densely vegetated. Emergency services are already active in the area. 

The lava comes from two vents and has crossed the Tacande highway to the built-up areas of Alcalá and El Paraíso. Authorities evacuated around 350 inhabitants. Several houses have been hit. It is not yet clear how much and to what extent. 

A fire has broken out in a residential area in the upper part of La Manchas. The lava arrived here in Cabeza de Vaca after flowing down from 700 metres. Experts and technicians deployed here analyse the amount of lava being ejected and the evolution of the eruption to use the data collected to estimate the path the magma will take. That will most likely be towards the coast. Then there is a good chance that it will hit Todoque. 

‘Strombolian eruption’

It is a “Strombolian eruption” such as the one that took place in the Teneguía volcano on October 26, 1971. The pressure of the magma in the subsoil was 11 million cubic meters. It caused a deformation of the soil of 15 centimetres. 5 centimetres were in the past 24 hours, while the process has intensified very quickly. 

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The eruption predictions this morning focused on the Las Manchas area, where the largest tremors were recorded in recent hours. The site of the eruption is close to the lava flows left by the San Juan volcano in 1949. In the Cumbre Vieja area, next to the volcano San Juan (1949), the Teneguía erupted in October 1971. 

The PEVOLCA Scientific Committee, meeting this Sunday, has started the preventive evacuation of the population. The planned evacuation is for residents of the Las Manchas neighborhoods (Manchas de Abajo, Jedey, San Nicolás and El Paraíso) in the municipalities of El Paso and Los Llanos de Aridane; the Charco (Fuencaliente); La Bombilla (Los LLanos and Tazacorte) and El Remo and Puerto Naos (Los Llanos de Aridane). The evacuation of farm and domestic animals has also begun. 

Extreme Precautions 

The island government of La Palma is asking the population to take extreme precautions and not approach the eruption area; to avoid unnecessary risks, and to keep the roads clear for emergency services. 

Damage to infrastructures and crushed stone 

In addition, there is closure of access roads and warnings issued about possible damage to infrastructure. Stone chips are in the parts of the roads between Fuencaliente and Las Manchas, and in the access to the tunnel from Santa Cruz de La Palma to El Paso. Three rocks have collapsed, but without further damage. 

Seismic activity reaches maximum 

The seismicity reached its maximum with a 4.2 earthquake on the Richter scale at a depth of two kilometres at 11.16 am today. This followed another of magnitude 3.6 at two kilometres from depth felt in six municipalities: El Paso where epicentre is, Los Llanos de Aridane, Tazacorte, Breña Alta, Fuencaliente and Breña Baja. At 10:52 AM, another strong earthquake of 3.2 shook many parts of Los Llanos de Aridane, El Paso, Breña Alta, Breña Baja, Villa de Mazo and Santa Cruz de La Palma. 

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