Authorities say air still breathable in La Palma as lava pours into sea

LA PALMA, Spain (Reuters) -A river of lava cascaded into the Atlantic Ocean from Spain’s La Palma island in the early hours on Wednesday, releasing plumes of steam which could unleash toxic gas, although so far authorities said the air inland had not been contaminated.

Thousands of people have been evacuated since an eruption in the Canary Islands archipelago began 10 days ago. Three coastal villages had been locked down since Monday in anticipation of the lava reaching the sea and potentially liberating harmful gases.

Residents on the western coast had been told to seal doors and windows with tape and wet towels. That recommendation was not yet lifted, but authorities said measurements showed the air was so far still safe to breathe.

“The eruption has not affected air quality, which is perfectly breathable. Teams measuring the presence of gases make periodic checks and have not registered values that could be considered dangerous,” the La Palma Council said on Twitter.

Incandescent lava gushing from the volcano poured down a cliff into the sea early on Wednesday in the Playa Nueva area near the town of Tazacorte and could be seen protruding above the Atlantic Ocean waterline, sending clouds of steam into the sky.

Smoke clouds billowed from the volcano and the molten rock as it flowed down Cumbre Vieja’s western flank.

“All the people in a 2-km radius have been evacuated” and a wider area is in lockdown, Tazacorte Mayor Juan Miguel Rodriguez Acosta told TV3 channel, adding that no further evacuations had been needed so far as the cloud was moving east.

He said all roads to the southern part of the island on the western side had been cut off by the lava.

Since the eruption began on Sept. 19, lava has engulfed nearly 530 houses, as well as 1,200 land plots, mostly banana plantations. Spain classified La Palma as a disaster zone on Tuesday, a move that will trigger financial support for the island.

($1 = 1.1714 euros)

(Reporting by Miguel Pereira, Marco Trujillo, Jon Nazca, Nacho Doce and Borja Suarez in La Palma; Writing by Inti Landauro and Andrei Khalip; editing by Mark Heinrich, Giles Elgood, Peter Graff)

La Palma volcano spews lava again after brief pause

By Jon Nazca and Nacho Doce

LA PALMA, Spain (Reuters) -The volcano on Spain’s La Palma has begun spewing lava and smoke again, researchers said on Monday after activity had earlier slowed to a near halt, while some coastal villages locked down in anticipation of the lava reaching the sea.

The Canary Islands’ Involcan volcanology institute confirmed the renewed eruption via Twitter while Reuters witnesses saw a column of white smoke rising from the cone after several hours of calm.

Involcan and the National Geographic Institute had said earlier on Monday the explosions and tremors around the Cumbre Vieja volcano had slowed down but the calm was short-lived and the eruption resumed shortly before 11 a.m. local time (1000 GMT).

Authorities locked down the coastal areas of San Borondon, Marina Alta and Baja and La Condesa where the superheated lava flow is expected to hit the Atlantic Ocean, likely triggering clouds of toxic gas and explosions.

“People must follow the authorities guidance and remain in their home with doors and windows closed,” the Canary Islands emergency services said on their Twitter account.

Local airline Binter said it would resume flights to and from the islands on Monday afternoon if conditions remained favorable. The airport reopened on Sunday after a brief closure due to volcanic ash but all flights were cancelled.

After a new vent opened on Sunday, Reuters drone footage showed a river of red hot lava flowing down the slopes of the crater, passing over homes, and swathes of land and buildings engulfed by a black mass of slower-moving, older lava.

Since the volcano started erupting on Sept. 19, the flow of black lava has engulfed more than 230 hectares, the European Union satellite monitoring service Copernicus said, swallowing hundreds of houses as well as roads, schools, churches and banana plantations and forcing thousands to evacuate.

No fatalities or serious injuries have been reported, but about 15% of the island’s banana crop could be at risk, jeopardizing thousands of jobs.

La Palma, with a population of over 83,000, is one of an archipelago making up the Canary Islands.

(Reporting by Guillermo Martinez, Jon Nazca, Nacho Doce and Marco Trujillo in La Palma and Inti Landauro in Madrid; Writing by Inti Landauro and Nathan Allen Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

Spanish rescuers search sea for missing toddler after girl found dead

By Borja Suarez and Emma Pinedo

TENERIFE, Spain (Reuters) -Spanish rescuers were searching waters off the coast of Tenerife for a one-year-old girl on Friday after a body which was reportedly confirmed to be her six-year-old sister was found weighed down in the ocean to an outpouring of rage and grief on the island.

Their father, Tomas G., is the main suspect in the disappearance of Olivia, 6, and Anna, 1, after failing to return them to their mother as agreed at the end of April. He is also missing.

Fingerprint checks have confirmed that the body found weighed down in the sea was that of Olivia, according to judicial sources cited by El Pais newspaper.

The family lived on Tenerife, where officials and a few local residents observed a minute of silence in memory of the sisters in front of the main city hall and outside other official buildings on the Canary Islands.

“All Spain is shocked, all our support for the families whose pain is absolutely unbearable and unimaginable, all our rejection of sexist violence, the vicarious violence that some still deny in our country,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Friday during a visit to Costa Rica.

The body of the 6-year-old, which authorities said was likely that of Olivia, was found on Thursday afternoon at a depth of 1,000 meters inside a sports bag tied to an anchor, near where her father’s boat was drifting.

Another empty sports bag was also found next to them, a court statement said.

Authorities were about to call off the maritime search earlier this week when they found personal belongings of the father at sea.

On the streets of Tenerife people mourned the girls.

“Every mother and grandmother feels the greatest sorrow, mainly for her (the girls’ mother)… It’s as if they were our own daughters or granddaughters,” said local resident Maria Victoria.

Spain’s left-wing government has put women’s rights at the top of its political agenda and sought to combat prevailing macho attitudes.

In Seville, a former boyfriend of Rocio Caiz, 17, was arrested after he allegedly confessed to killing her and cutting up her body.

Almost 1,100 women have been killed by partners or ex-partners since a register was created in 2003, shortly before a gender violence law was approved, while some 39 children have been killed during attacks on their mothers since 2013.

(Reporting by Borja Suarez in Tenerife, Emma Pinedo and Cristina Galan in Madrid; Graham Keeley writing by Emma Pinedo; Editing by Ingrid Melander and Alistair Bell)

Spain reports first coronavirus case on mainland, hotel in Canaries locked down

By Inti Landauro and Emma Pinedo

MADRID (Reuters) – Spain discovered its first case of the coronavirus on the mainland on Tuesday after a four-star hotel in the Canary Islands was locked down for tests when a guest, and then his wife, were found to be infected.

The government said a woman from Barcelona had tested positive for the virus after a recent trip to northern Italy, which has reported more than 280 cases.

Earlier, government spokeswoman Maria Montero said that the guests in the Canary Islands hotel would “stay at the hotel until this second test and, depending on the results, appropriate health measures will be taken”.

The H10 Costa Adeje Palace hotel in Tenerife would not comment, a receptionist at the Barcelona-based company managing the hotel said.

Guest Christopher Betts said over the phone from his room that there were police cars stationed at all entrances.

“We’re told we’re in quarantine due to an Italian doctor testing for the coronavirus. The hotel seems to be acting normally, except that we cannot go out,” he said.

Spanish health authorities said they would test hotel guests and staff. Late on Monday, they had said an Italian doctor on holiday in Tenerife had tested positive.

His wife tested positive on Tuesday, the regional government said.

The hotel has capacity for hundreds of guests, several restaurants and swimming pools, and is located 50 meters from the beach.

Media have said there are about 1,000 people there. On its Facebook page, the H10 Costa Adeje Palace said it planned a carnival party on Thursday evening.

Tens of thousands are expected this week in the Canary Islands for carnival festivities.

The Italian man and his wife were now in isolation in hospital. Before Monday, Spain had identified two cases – a German tourist in La Gomera, another Canary Island, and a British man in Mallorca.

Betts, a British national from Leicestershire, said guests had been allowed to have breakfast in the hotel restaurant.

“We were originally told to go back to our rooms after breakfast, but we haven’t done so, and everyone else seems to be talking around reception as normal. But unfortunately no one has any more information as yet, they’re all waiting for the health authorities.”

He said he had not been tested for the virus yet and had missed his flight home.

Hotel employees were wearing masks, but none was provided to the guests, Betts said. Video he provided from inside the hotel showed people carrying on normally, except for the masks.

Other hotel staff were waiting outside on the parking lot, unable to get into the hotel, footage shows.

(Additional reporting by Joan Faus, Paola Luelmo, Ingrid Melander; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Nick Macfie)

Canary Islands wildfire prompts 9,000 evacuations; reaches park

Trees burnt in a forest fire are seen in the village of Guia, in the Canary Island of Gran Canaria, Spain, August 20, 2019. REUTERS/Borja Suarez

TEJEDA, Spain (Reuters) – An out-of-control wildfire on Gran Canaria in Spain’s Canary Islands kept spreading on Monday, increasing to 9,000 the number of people evacuated from eight municipalities and reaching a natural park, authorities said on Monday.

The blaze, which began on Saturday near the town of Tejeda, is advancing on several fronts, propelled by a combination of high temperatures, strong winds and low humidity. So far, the fire is affecting the mountainous central part of the island rather than coastal areas busy with tourists in the summer months.

Around 6,000 hectares (23.17 square miles) have burned so far and the fire has entered the northwestern Tamadaba natural park, home to some of the island’s oldest pine forests and considered a complicated area for firefighters to intervene.

“We will defeat this serious and damaging fire,” Canary Islands’ regional president Angel Victor Torres said in a statement released by his office.

Gran Canaria’s airport is not being affected by the blaze, it added.

Sixteen planes and helicopters, as well as more than 1,000 firefighters, are working to contain flames as high as 50 metres (164 feet), authorities said.

The blaze marks the second time that Tejeda has been evacuated this month due to wildfire.

(Reporting by Ashifa Kassam and Joan Faus, aditional reporting by Borja Suarez, editing by Andres Gonzalez, Toby Chopra, William Maclean)

Evacuees fleeing Canary Islands wildfire rise to 8,000

A helicopter carries water to fight a forest fire seen in the village of Guia on the Canary Island of Gran Canaria, Spain, August 19, 2019. REUTERS/Borja Suarez

TEJEDA, Spain (Reuters) – Around 8,000 people have been evacuated as firefighters battle an out-of-control wildfire on Gran Canaria in Spain’s Canary Islands, authorities said on Monday.

The blaze, which began on Saturday near the town of Tejeda, is advancing on several fronts, propelled by a combination of high temperatures, strong winds and low humidity. So far, the fire is affecting the mountainous central part of the island rather than coastal areas busy with tourists in the summer months.

“The fire remains out of control,” a spokeswoman for emergency services in the region told Reuters. “It is a very serious fire.”

Sixteen planes and helicopters, as well as more than 700 firefighters, are currently working to contain flames as high as 50 meters, authorities said. More than 3,400 hectares have burned so far and the fire is moving aggressively toward the northwestern Tamadaba natural park, home to some of the island’s oldest pine forests.

Some 400 firefighters spent the night battling the fire’s flanks, hoping to choke it off as it moved toward more populated areas.

The blaze marks the second time that Tejeda has been evacuated this month due to wildfire.

(Reporting by Ashifa Kassam, additional reporting by Borja Suarez, editing by Andres Gonzalez and Toby Chopra)

New Eruption May Be Brewing at Volcano in Canary Islands

Two years after a new underwater volcano appeared offshore of El Hierro in the Canary Islands, earthquake swarms and a sudden change in height suggest a new eruption is brewing near the island’s villages, officials announced today (Dec. 27).

After the announcement, one of the largest temblors ever recorded at the volcanic island, a magnitude-5.1 earthquake, struck offshore of El Hierro at 12:46 p.m. ET (5:46 p.m. local time) today, the National Geographic Institute reported. Residents on the island reported strong shaking, and the quake was felt throughout the Canary Islands, according to news reports. The earthquake’s epicenter was 9 miles (15 kilometers) deep.

Before the earthquake struck early this afternoon, the island’s volcano monitoring agency, Pelvolca, had raised the volcanic eruption risk for El Hierro to “yellow.” This warning means that activity is increasing at the volcano, but no eruption is imminent. A similar burst of activity prompted a yellow warning in June 2012, but the volcano soon quieted down.

Source: Scientific American – New Eruption May Be Brewing at Volcano in Canary Islands

Could the Canaries soon get a new island? Recent earthquakes hint at an imminent underwater volcanic eruption

According to Involcan, the Volcanological Institute of the Canaries, over 550 earthquakes were reported and monitored between Monday and Christmas Day on Wednesday.

Some 30 of these were said to have been a 3-magnitude quake or higher.

The majority of these quakes, as well as the swelling on El Hierro, were centered on the region of La Restinga on the south coast of the island.

The 5.1-magnitude quake was the strongest ever recorded in the region and its epicenter was said to be around nine miles deep.

Source: Daily Mail – Could the Canaries soon get a new island? Recent earthquakes hint at an imminent underwater volcanic eruption

Volcanic Activity Increases for Canary Islands

Officials announced on Friday that the recent earthquake swarms and sudden change in height suggest a new eruption is brewing offshore El Hierro in the Canary Islands.

Following the announcement, the volcanic island was struck by a magnitude 5.1 earthquake at 12:46 p.m. ET according to the National Geographic Institute. The quake was felt throughout the Canary Islands.

Before the quake early Friday afternoon, parts of El Hierro had swelled nearly 3 inches in the past week and more than 550 earthquakes rattled the opposite side of the island between Monday and Wednesday. According to the Volcanological Institute of the Canaries (Involcan), the earthquakes are caused by underground magma fracturing rocks and swelling the surface as the hot rock reaches upward.

In 2011, El Hierro was the site of an underwater volcanic eruption that forced residents to evacuate.