by Daniel Roca and Joseph Wilson | The Associated Press
LOS LLANOS DE ARIDANE, Canary Islands – A bright red river of lava from a volcano on the island of La Palma, Spain, finally spilled onto a cliff and into the Atlantic Ocean, releasing huge plumes of steam and possibly toxic gases, prompting local residents to evacuate was forced outside. Areas to stay indoors on Wednesday.
The immediate area was evacuated for several days as officials waited for the lava that began to form on September 19 and traveled 4 miles to the edge of the island. On its way down from the Cumbre Vieja volcanic ridge, lava flows have engulfed at least 656 buildings, mostly homes and farm buildings, in their unstoppable march into the sea.
The meeting of molten rock and sea water finally took place at 11 pm on Tuesday. By daylight, a wide area of nascent land can be seen that forms under a plume of steam rising up in the area.
Although preliminary air quality readings showed no danger in the area, experts warned that lava in the ocean was likely to cause small eruptions and release toxic gases that can damage the lungs. Authorities established a 2.1-mile security perimeter and asked residents of the wider area to stay indoors with windows closed to avoid breathing in any gas.
No deaths or serious injuries have been reported from the island’s first eruption in 50 years, thanks to the quick evacuation of more than 6,000 people after the quake broke open ground weeks later.
As the terrain was leveled as it approached the coast, the lava flow slowed, causing it to widen and cause more damage to villages and farms. The local economy is largely based on agriculture, above all the cultivation of the Canary banana.
Just before pouring a rock into the sea at a local point known as Los Guerres, lava rolled onto a coastal highway, cutting the last road in the area connecting the island to several villages.
“We hope that the channel that is open to the ocean prevents lava flows, which at one point reached 2,000 feet, as it caused tremendous damage,” said Canary Islands regional president Angel Victor Torres. Sarkar, told Cope Radio.
Torres said his government is working to provide homes to those who have lost their homes. The officials plan to buy over 100 houses that are currently lying vacant. Torres cited Todok, a village where 1,400 people lived, which was wiped out.
La Palma, home to about 85,000 people, is part of the volcanic Canary Islands, an archipelago off northwest Africa. The island is about 22 miles long and 12 miles wide at its widest point.
Cleaning crews shed ash in the island’s capital, Santa Cruz, while weeks of minor earthquakes were registered by geologists beneath the volcano.
Favorable weather conditions allowed the first flight in five days to land at the airport on La Palma, an important tourist destination with its neighboring Canary Islands, despite a huge ash cloud, Spain’s National Geographic Institute said. that reached an altitude of 4.3 miles.
Laura Garces, director of Spain’s air navigation authority ENAIRE, said she did not see any major problems for other airports on the archipelago because of the reefs.
While red tongues of lava rolled off the coast, the volcano’s two open vents continued to eject more magma from below.
Experts say it is impossible to determine very quickly how long the eruption will last. Previous eruptions in the archipelago have lasted for weeks, even months.