Blocks of molten lava as large as three-storey buildings rolled down a hillside on the Spanish island of La Palma on Sunday while a series of tremors shook the ground three weeks after the volcano first erupted.
There were 21 seismic movements recorded, with the largest measuring 3.8, the Spanish National Geological Institute (ING) said, shaking the ground in the villages of Mazo, Fuencaliente and El Paso. Three weeks since its eruption upended the lives of thousands, the volcano on Spain’s La Palma island is still spewing out endless streams of lava.
Authorities on Sunday monitored a new stream of molten rock that has added to the destruction of over 1,100 buildings. Anything in the path of the lava — homes, farms, swimming pools and industrial buildings in the largely agricultural area — has been consumed.
The collapse Saturday of part of the volcanic cone sent a flood of bright red lava pouring down from the Cumbre Vieja ridge that initially cracked open on September 19. The fast-flowing stream carried away huge chunks of lava that had already hardened. An industrial park was soon engulfed.
“We cannot say that we expect the eruption that began 21 days ago to end anytime soon,” Associated Press quoted Julio Pérez, the regional minister for security on the Canary Islands as saying.
Meanwhile, Reuters reported that from Monday, members of the Spanish Navy will help clean volcanic ash that covers large parts of the island, Defence Minister Margarita Robles said during a visit on Sunday.
The lava flow, with temperatures of up to 1,240 degrees Celsius, destroyed the last few buildings that remained standing in the village of Todoque, the Canary Islands Volcanology Institute said on Twitter. There was a partial cone collapse near the volcano’s emission vent on Saturday, Stavros Meletlidis, a spokesman for ING told Reuters.
“The collapse of the northern flank of the Cumbre Vieja volcano has caused the release of large blocks of material and the appearance of new flows that run through areas already evacuated,” tweeted Spain’s National Security Department.
La Palma is part of Spain’s Canary Islands, an Atlantic Ocean archipelago off northwest Africa whose economy depends on the cultivation of the Canary plantain and tourism.
The new rivers of lava have not forced the evacuation of any more residents since they are all so staying within the exclusion zone that authorities have created. Some 6,000 residents were promptly evacuated after the initial eruption.
Government experts estimated that the largest of the lava flows measures 1.5 km (.9 miles) at its widest point, while the delta of new land being formed where lava is flowing into the Atlantic has reached a surface of 34 hectares (84 acres).
The scientific committee advising the government said that if the delta continues to grow outwards into the sea, parts of it could break off. That would generate explosions, gas emissions and large waves, committee spokeswoman José María Blanco said, but should not represent a danger to those outside the no-go zone.
About 6,000 people have been evacuated from their homes on La Palma, which has about 83,000 inhabitants. Lightning was seen near the eruption early on Saturday.
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