October 4, 2023

Cumbre Vieja volcano erupts in La Palma

Cumbre Vieja volcano erupts in La Palma

A volcano erupted in the Canary Islands, thousands of people fled

Several craters in the south of the island of La Palma are causing a fire. The residents were evacuated. There may be air traffic problems.

Breathing fire: the Cumbre Vieja mountain range on the Canary Island of La Palma.

Jonathan Rodriguez / AP

On Sunday afternoon, drilling on the Canary island of La Palma began shooting. First, people in the southwest of Spain’s holiday island heard a loud explosion. The land has opened up in several places in the Cumbre Vieja (Old Peak) mountain range. Rocks flew out of the vents. Since then, glowing liquid magma has seeped from several craters and flowed down the mountain toward the sea.

Small earthquakes that lasted for several days were announced on the island. A total of more than 25,000 tremors were detected in the past week. The most violent event occurred early Sunday morning and measured 3.8 on the Richter scale and was noticeable across the island. The foci of earthquakes have always been in the south and southwest of the island and have recently come close to the Earth’s surface.

Cumbre Vega in La Palma before the outbreak.

Cumbre Vega in La Palma before the outbreak.

Urs Zillmann // 500 pixels

The southern half of the island, where the towns of Los Llanos de Aridan, El Paso, Mazo and Fuencaliente lie, has been put on alert for days. 35,000 people live there. La Palma has a population of 84,000. Every year, hundreds of thousands of tourists visit the volcanic island, which is considered a natural paradise. Even now in September, there are many holiday guests on the island, which is especially popular among trekkers.

Many holiday hotels in the affected area

The volcanic eruption occurred in a largely uninhabited area of ​​Cumbre Vieja, in a mountainous area about 1,000 meters high called Cabeza de Vaca (cow’s head). The affected area belongs to the municipality of El Paso, which has 8000 people and which also has many holiday hotels. During the afternoon, more and more volcanic holes opened. By evening, authorities had counted seven pit holes. Cumbre Vieja is the most active volcanic mountain range in the Canary Islands. The last outbreak was 50 years ago and lasted several weeks.

The main danger on Sunday evening came from several lava flows that were moving down the slope over mountain roads toward populated areas and could also reach parts of Los Llanos de Arridan. The viscous, extremely hot mass, whose temperatures have been measured as high as 1,000 degrees, set fire to parts of the surrounding pine forests on its way toward the sea. A thick cloud of smoke stood over the island. It also rained ash on the ground miles away from volcanic craters.

A volcano on the island of La Palma erupted on Sunday for the first time in 50 years.

Melissa Schumacher

According to the authorities, at least 2,000 people had been evacuated by early evening. This also includes tourists who have had to leave their places of residence. People were housed on the coast, outside the danger zone, in emergency shelters and gyms. Residents of the south of the island were called in days ago to prepare for a possible evacuation. On the Sunday after the outbreak, maximum alert was sounded in the southern part of the island.

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“Please don’t come to the pits”

Authorities have asked tourists and residents across the island to remain calm. You should pay close attention to the news and do not go near the volcanic zone. However, hundreds of spectators attempted to reach the crater area by car on Sunday afternoon. Not only was this dangerous, but it also hampered emergency services. Long traffic jams formed on many roads in the volcanic zone. “Please don’t come to the pits,” the island’s president, Mariano Zapata, warned in the evening. During the last eruption of Cumbre Vega in 1971, two onlookers died from smoke inhalation.

Volcanic eruption in La Palma: here lava makes its way into a vacation accommodation.

Melissa Schumacher

The massive eruption could affect air traffic to the holiday island, located off the coast of West Africa in the Atlantic Ocean, in the next few days. The Spanish aviation authorities have recommended airlines to temporarily suspend air traffic to Santa Cruz de la Palma airport, in the east of the island. Mainly because of the clouds of smoke and ash that spread over the island. However, no flight bans have been imposed so far, so the decision to cancel rests with the airlines. So passengers should contact their airline before starting their journey.

The head of the regional government of all the Canary Islands, Angel Victor Torres, did not dare to predict how the volcanic eruption would occur on Sunday evening. He said, “We have to wait.” “Hopefully the damage will be limited.”

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