After days of increased seismic activity that resulted in more than 22,000 earthquakes, the Cumbre Vieja volcano on the island of La Palma erupted for the first time in half a century.
By Adam Douty, AccuWeather senior meteorologist Updated Sep. 21, 2021 8:55 AM MDT
The Cumbre Vieja volcano on the Spanish island of La Palma erupted Sunday after days of increased seismic activity, forcing thousands to flee and spewing lava that destroyed numerous properties.
The eruption began Sunday afternoon on the southern portion of the island, causing fissures to open which allowed lava to burst into the air and trickle down hillsides and onto roadways.
About 100 homes in an area of the island known for farming were destroyed by the lava flow, according to The Associated Press. No injuries have been reported. As of Tuesday morning, the lava had covered 255 acres of land.
The AP, citing the Canary Islands Volcanology Institute, said the lava was moving at a speed of 2,300 feet per hour on Monday but has since slowed its pace. This lava is expected to cause explosions and clouds of acidic steam when it reached the waters of the Atlantic Ocean by Wednesday, according to Al Jazeera. The temperature of the lava was measured at more than 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit.
La Palma has a population of about 85,000 and is located within Spain’s Canary Islands, which are located off the northwest coast of Africa.
“When we saw the column of smoke, we thought it could not be real, but it kept growing and we knew we had to get out of there,” Carlota Martín, a resident who was nearby when the eruption first occurred, told the AP. “You leave, but you are also looking back because you want to see what will happen.”
So far about 6,000 people have been evacuated from the area around the volcano and lava flow, according to El País. Authorities have told some residents to remain indoors due to falling volcanic ash.
An additional fissure formed in the volcano on Monday evening, following a 3.8 magnitude earthquake, according to the Canary Islands Volcanology Institute.
“People should not come near the eruption site where the lava is flowing,” Mariano Hernández, the president of La Palma, said according to the AP. “We are having serious problems with the evacuation because the roads are jammed with people who are trying to get close enough to see it.”
Spain’s Civil Guard said that it could end up evacuating up to 10,000 residents if necessary.
On Tuesday, Ángel Víctor Torres, the president of the Canary Islands, announced that damage on La Palma will total an amount higher than 400 million euros (469 million USD).
“But now the most amazing thing, which I’ve never experienced, is that the noise coming from the volcano, it sounds like… 20 fighter jets taking off and it’s extremely loud, it’s amazing,” Jonas Perez, who is a local tour guide, told the BBC.
La Palma was put on high alert for an eruption after more than 22,000 earthquakes were recorded within one week around the volcano, the BBC reported.
“A swarm of earthquakes can often precede a volcanic eruption,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Tyler Roys.
This eruption is reminiscent of Hawaii’s Lower Puna eruption in Kīlauea’s Lower East rift zone. The eruption began in 2018 but was still active as late as mid-2019.
The island is no stranger to eruptions, as Cumbre Vieja erupted back in 1971 and 1949. The last eruption on La Palma lasted for three weeks, according to The Associated Press. The most recent eruption throughout the entire archipelago was an underwater eruption near El Hierro island in 2011 that lasted for about five months.
There has not been a significant disruption in air travel since the Cumbre Vieja volcano has not released a large amount of ash into the atmosphere.
“The area will not have to contend with any significant weather in the coming days, which should help if any additional evacuations are needed,” said Roys. “Barring a brief shower on a few occasions, dry weather will prevail through the rest of the week.” (Click to Source)