As a volcano on La Palma, one of Spain’s Canary Islands, continues to spit out lava and ash for the fifth day, thousands more have been forced to flee. The volcano first erupted on Sunday around 3:15 p.m. local time. Since then, a continuous stream of black lava has been advancing slowly westward, destroying everything in its path. Live cam and drone footage from the region show the extent of the damage.
The eruption of La Cumbre Vieja on September 19 marks the Canary Islands’ first in 50 years. Though there have been no reports of fatalities, the lava has destroyed around 350 houses and forced the evacuation of around 6,000 people. Property portal Idealista estimates the volcano has so far destroyed property worth around $102 million.
The lava is now close to reaching the sea. With temperatures exceeding 1,000C, local officials fear that lava meeting the sea could cause explosions and produce clouds of toxic gas, which may reduce visibility as well.
Meanwhile, the Canary Islands Volcanology Institute has been working tirelessly to obtain key scientific data from the eruption, including measuring sulfur dioxide concentrations as well as the chemical composition of the plume, taking thermal images, and setting up a geochemical station to monitor the chemical and isotopic composition of soil gas.
The organization estimates the eruption could last for up to 84 days.
The catastrophe Sunday was preceded by weeks of intense seismic activity in the region, which alerted authorities that an eruption was possible.
In the past few days, more than 4,200 tremors, known as an “earthquake swarm,” were recorded on the island as ground deformation indicated that magma was bubbling underneath the surface.
Watch live video stream of Spain’s La Palma volcano
Along with the volcano, controversy has also erupted in Spain. While local officials are urging people to stay away from the affected region, Spain’s tourism minister Reyes Maroto said in an interview Monday the eruption could be a potential tourist attraction.
The island is open. If your hotel is affected, we will find you another one. Make the most of this opportunity to enjoy what nature has brought us.
These remarks have triggered a backlash, with political opponents blasting Maroto and pointing out that people were losing their homes in the disaster.
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