On the Canary Island of La Palma, 5,000 to 10,000 residents and tourists have been evacuated. Since yesterday afternoon, the volcano Cumbre Vieja has erupted again. The lava makes its way to the coast, destroying houses and banana plantations along the way.
The last volcanic eruption on the island dates back to 50 years ago, in October 1971. Residents and tourists in villages near the volcano have been moved to temporary shelters. They can visit friends and family or stay in a local barracks.
President Angel Victor Torres assures that there have been no casualties for the time being. But there is material damage. Twenty houses are said to have already been destroyed, and the lava flows slowly towards the sea. There is an extra danger there because more people live on the coast. From the inland to the coast, many banana plantations are now going up in flames because of the lava.
The Cumbre Vieja is located in the southeast of La Palma. Highways are closed or blocked. Islanders are advised to stay indoors. The emitted ash and smoke can cause respiratory complaints and skin irritation.
Jonas Perez, a local guide on the island, tells the British public broadcaster BBC that he can still feel vibrations. “The most amazing thing is the sound coming from the volcano… it’s deafening and resembles 20 fighter jets taking off.”
Experts have been warning of an impending volcanic eruption for several days. Seismic activity had recently increased significantly. The lava is expected to flow towards the sea in the southwest.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who was to go to New York for a meeting of the UN (United Nations), has travelled to La Palma and will, among other things, visit a reception centre and some affected areas. The military is trying to control the situation with troops specializing in natural disasters.
Flights to the local airport will not be affected for the time being. La Palma is part of the Canary Islands and has 85,000 inhabitants.