Lockdown lifted in Spain’s La Palma, volcanic eruption keeps airport shut

MADRID (Reuters) – Authorities on the Spanish island of La Palma on Wednesday lifted lockdown on three coastal towns as toxic fumes from the lava flowing into the sea partly dissipated, but the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano showed no signs of abating.

The red-hot molten rock continued to gush along the western flanks of the volcano, which has been erupting since Sept. 19, and the pace of daily earth tremors is yet to slow down.

La Palma airport remained closed since the weekend, and footage released by airport operator Aena showed staff shovelings tonnes of black ash from the runway.

“If the eruption intensity doesn’t diminish, it is most likely to keep affecting La Palma airport,” said Carmen Lopez, who heads the National Geographic Institute’s geophysical monitoring program.

Local authorities on Monday forced residents of three coastal towns to stay indoors as a third tongue of lava hit the sea sending thick clouds of vapor and smoke high into the sky.

The cloud is less dense now, said Miguel Angel Morcuende, technical director of the Canary Islands Volcanic Emergency Plan.

“However, we recommend that people living near where the lava flow reaches the sea to wear the FFP2 masks and stay protected to prevent any problem,” he told reporters.

The lava solidifying as it crashes into the water has expanded the island’s surface by some 46 hectares, according to the authorities.

It has engulfed 1,073 hectares of land so far, according to the EU satellite monitoring system Copernicus. The eruption has damaged or destroyed nearly 2,700 buildings, forcing the evacuation of thousands from their homes on the island.

(Reporting by Inti Landauro and Emma Pinedo, editing by Andrei Khalip and Mike Collett-White)

Coastal towns locked down in La Palma as lava crashes into ocean

MADRID (Reuters) – Authorities on the Spanish island of La Palma ordered residents of three coastal towns to stay indoors on Monday after a new stream of lava crashed into the ocean, sending thick clouds of potentially toxic gases high into the sky.

A third tongue of lava from the Cumbre Vieja volcano, which has been erupting for two months, reached the water around midday (12:00 GMT) a few kilometers north of where two previous flows hit the sea.

Drone footage from the local council showed white clouds billowing out of the water as the red hot molten rock slid down a cliff into the Atlantic.

Residents in Tazacorte, San Borondon and parts of El Cardon were told to stay inside with doors and windows shut as strong winds blew the cloud back inland.

Soldiers from the Military Emergency Unit were deployed to measure air quality in the area.

The airport was also closed and is likely to remain so for up to 48 hours due to the unfavorable weather conditions, said Miguel Angel Morcuende, technical director of the Pevolca eruption response committee.

Residents in the capital Santa Cruz had been advised to wear masks for the first time since the eruption began due to high concentrations of particulate matter and Sulphur dioxide in the air, he said.

According to the Copernicus disaster monitoring program, lava flows have damaged or destroyed some 2,650 buildings since Sept. 19, forcing the evacuation of thousands from their homes on the island, part of the Canaries archipelago.

(Reporting by Nathan Allen, editing by Andrei Khalip and Angus MacSwan)

Rock rises out of the sea as second La Palma lava flow reaches ocean

MADRID (Reuters) – New cascades of red-hot lava tumbled into the Atlantic Ocean off Spain’s La Palma on Wednesday morning, sending up plumes of white smoke and extending a platform of volcanic rock created by earlier flows.

The stream of molten rock from the Cumbre Vieja volcano, which began erupting in mid-September, reached the water near the popular surf spot of Los Guirres beach just before 2 a.m., according to the Transport Ministry.

A video uploaded by Spain’s Geology and Mining Institute showed rivers of molten rock sliding into the sea and large rocks rolling down a cliff, causing a cone of debris to emerge from the waterline.

Unlike the first time lava reached the ocean – just over a month ago – authorities said there was no need for residents to stay indoors.

“New confinements are not necessary because the populations are far away from the point of contact with the sea that occurred last night,” an emergency services spokesperson told Reuters.

Few people live in the affected area, which is mostly banana plantations.

Early on in the eruption authorities had feared that the reaction between the superheated lava and seawater could unleash powerful explosions and set off toxic gas clouds.

During the last major eruption on the island, some 50 years ago, a man died after inhaling such gases.

La Palma’s council said on Tuesday that seismic activity around the eruption site, as well as emissions of toxic sulphur dioxide, had been decreasing and the air quality remained good across most of the island.

(Reporting by Nathan Allen and Emma Pinedo; Editing by Giles Elgood)

La Palma observatory gets smart to fight the dust

By Marco Trujillo and Borja Suarez

LA PALMA, Spain (Reuters) – Viewed from La Palma’s highest point where enormous telescopes dot the rocky landscape, the Cumbre Vieja volcano looks like a distant puff of smoke breaking through a blanket of white cloud to create a sense of serene isolation.

But dust from the eruption, which has been wreaking havoc on the Spanish Canary island for more than 40 days, can clog up machinery, scratch lenses and cause electrical interference at the state-of-the-art observatory, hampering scientific work.

Most of the instruments are encased within huge domes that shut when there is risk of ashfall, but two so-called MAGIC telescopes, designed to detect gamma-ray bursts in distant galaxies via glittering mirror panels, have no such protection.

“We had to improvise a little,” said Victor Acciari, the center’s technical coordinator, gesturing to a screen of black bin bags taped over the mechanisms that can spin the 60 tonne structure to focus on any part of the cosmos in 20 seconds.

“We had to cover the most delicate parts, especially the gearboxes and the parts covered in grease,” said the 46-year-old astrophysicist and electrical engineer.

Minimal light pollution around La Palma, the westernmost of the Canaries and among the least populated, makes it an ideal site for astronomical observation.

Situated around 16 kilometers (10 miles) from the eruption site and 1,300 meters higher up, the observatory has found other ways to remain useful on nights when the ash cloud prevents the telescopes from operating.

“There are a number of instruments that can be helpful in monitoring the eruption,” said the observatory’s administrator, Juan Carlos Perez Arencibia.

Besides a fixed camera trained on the plume of ash emanating from the crater that helps Spanish authorities model the cloud’s behavior, the center recently adapted its fiber-optic network to measure seismic activity.

“It is a new situation for all of us living on the island,” Perez said.

“We are trying, even with our scientific work, to provide information to our international friends and colleagues on how they can help.”

Experts say it is impossible to predict how long the eruption, which has forced thousands to evacuate and destroyed over 2,000 homes, will last.

“Some telescopes will need repairs to their domes…but it’s relatively simple maintenance. Operations will restart quickly,” Perez said.

(Writing by Nathan Allen, editing by Ed Osmond)

La Palma evacuees see no end to ordeal after month of volcanic eruption

By Guillermo Martinez

LA PALMA, Spain (Reuters) -One month after the Cumbre Vieja volcano erupted on the Spanish island of La Palma spewing red-hot lava and ash, Culberta Cruz, her husband and their dog are living in a tiny caravan on a parking lot and see no end of the ordeal in sight.

“I’m tired, so tired … but who are we to fight against nature?,” the 56-year-old hospital kitchen worker said, sitting on a camping chair.

Her husband, banana grower Tono Gonzalez, was pulling electric cables and water hoses to connect to the vehicle, with their French bulldog looking on. The couple have been living in the small camping car for a month, constantly brushing off volcanic ash from the vehicle.

“One day it’s exploding there, the other a vent opens here, it’s just anguish and living in fear, waiting and praying for it to stop erupting,” Cruz said. “And it’s a lot of sadness for those who lost their homes.”

Streams of red-hot lava have engulfed almost 800 hectares (2000 acres) of land, destroying about 2,000 buildings and many banana plantations since the eruption started on Sept. 19. More than 6,000 people have had to leave their homes.

Carmen del Fresno, from the National Geographic Institute’s volcano monitoring department, told Reuters the eruption was unlikely to stop for at least another week, but there was no way to predict how long it would last.

“Historical records show eruptions lasting 24 to 84 days … It would be logical to assume something within those bounds, but we cannot risk (predicting) anything.”

After being ordered to evacuate, Cruz and Gonzalez first stayed at a relative’s farm and then took the caravan to the parking lot where they could get fresh water and a bit of electricity. They are now looking into renting an apartment that accepts pets.

“We don’t know when it’s going to stop, that’s the problem. This is nature and we have to deal with it, it’s bigger than us,” said Gonzalez.

Added Cruz: “The future is to try to remove what (belongings) we had and to wait for it to end, then get back to the lives we had before, even if it will be more difficult.”

(Additional reporting by Emma Pinedo in Madrid, writing by Inti Landauro and Andrei Khalip; Editing by Peter Graff)

Hundreds more flee as lava spreads on Spain’s La Palma

LA PALMA (Reuters) – Around 300 more people fled their homes early on Thursday as flows of molten rock pouring from the Cumbre Vieja volcano threatened to engulf another area on the Spanish island of La Palma.

Emergency crews gave people living between the towns of Tazacorte and La Laguna a few hours to collect their belongings and pets and go to a meeting point.

During the morning, a 4.5 magnitude earthquake rocked the island, the Spanish National Geographic Institute said – the strongest of 100 quakes that have hit the eruption zone over the past 24 hours.

Tremors have been recorded almost constantly since before the eruption.

With no end in sight to the eruption, which is in its fourth week, authorities said they were expecting the lava flow to keep spreading northwest from the volcano.

Red hot lava has already laid waste to nearly 600 hectares of land and destroyed about 1,500 houses and other buildings, including a cement plant that gave off toxic fumes earlier in the week.

The flow has also devoured banana and avocado plantations vital to the island’s economy.

According to the official register, 300 people live in the area located between Tazacorte and La Laguna.

A small group of between 10 and 15 people who lived nearby already left on Wednesday evening. More than 6,000 people have been evacuated on the island of 83,000 people.

(Reporting by Silvio Castellanos, Sergio Perez and Bart Biesemans; Writing by Emma Pinedo; Editing by Inti Landauro, Robert Birsel and Andrew Heavens)

Lava from La Palma volcano burns cement plant, prompting lockdown

LA PALMA, Spain (Reuters) – A stream of red-hot lava gushing from the Cumbre Vieja volcano on the Spanish island of La Palma engulfed a cement plant on Monday, raising a thick cloud of smoke and prompting authorities to order people in the area into lockdown.

Local emergency service instructed residents in the towns of El Paso and Los Llanos de Aridane to remain indoors, and to shut their windows, shades and air conditioning devices to avoid inhaling toxic fumes from the burning plant as it was being gradually swallowed by the lava.

“Lock down, if possible, in the most inner rooms,” the emergency service said via its Twitter account.

Miguel Angel Morcuende, the technical director of the Canary Islands Volcanic Emergency Plan said the fire at the plant had “produced a very dense smoke that sullied the air.”

The area affected by the lava in the eruption that began on Sept. 19 has expanded 10% overnight, reaching nearly 600 hectares, he said.

Following the partial collapse of the volcano’s cone on Saturday, a new river of lava streamed towards the sea, devouring banana and avocado plantations and most of the remaining houses in the town of Todoque.

Torrents of molten rock have destroyed 1,186 buildings in the three weeks since the eruption, the Canary Islands Volcanic Institute said.

About 6,000 people have been evacuated from their homes on La Palma, which has about 83,000 inhabitants.

(Reporting by Silvio Castellanos, Juan Medina, writing by Inti Landauro; editing by Andrei Khalip and Bernadette Baum)

Volcanic ash buildup shuts airport on La Palma in Spain’s Canary Islands

MADRID (Reuters) -A buildup of ash and dust from the erupting Cumbre Vieja volcano on the runway forced authorities in Spain’s La Palma to close the island’s airport on Thursday, air traffic operator AENA said.

Other airports in the Canary Islands’ archipelago off North Africa remained open, however, and an AENA spokesperson said the ash cloud was unlikely to pose any wider risks to air travel for now.

It is the second time that La Palma’s airport has been shut due to ash buildup since the eruption began on Sept. 19.

“The La Palma Airport is inoperative due to ash accumulation. The established protocols are being applied. Safety is the priority,” the operator said in a post on Twitter.

In 2011, sweeping closures of European airspace due to an ash cloud from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland disrupted travel plans for millions of passengers in Europe and elsewhere, and cost airlines over a billion euros in revenues.

The volcano on La Palma has been blasting out jets of red-hot lava for more than two weeks, laying waste to hundreds of buildings and farms, and forcing the evacuation of thousands.

The airport was closed on Sept. 25 but reopened the following day after workers swept volcanic ash off the runway.

(Reporting by Emma Pinedo, editing by Andrei Khalip and Susan Fenton)

More destruction feared in La Palma as lava pours from new volcano vent

By Juan Medina and Marco Trujillo

MADRID (Reuters) -Lava flowed from a newly opened crack in the Cumbre Vieja volcano on Spain’s La Palma on Friday, carving a different path from previous flows and raising fears of more destruction, while fine ash forced islanders to don masks and goggles.

A river of red-hot lava snaked downhill from the new fissure, which burst open late on Thursday around 400 meters (1,300 ft.) to the north of the primary eruption site.

Multiple vents have opened since the volcano began erupting on Sept. 19 but the Canaries Volcanology Institute described the latest opening as a new “focus of eruption.”

“There is concern about the path of this new flow towards the sea, although it is expected to join up with the previous one within the next few hours,” said the head of La Palma’s council, Mariano Hernandez Zapata.

He said more houses had been engulfed by lava overnight.

“We have more drama ahead, more people to take care of,” he told a news conference.

About 6,000 people have been evacuated since the eruption began and are yet to return home. More than 800 buildings including houses, churches and schools have been destroyed.

The volcano has thrown out 80 million cubic meters of molten rock, regional leader Angel Victor Torres said, doubling the amount expelled during La Palma’s last major eruption 50 years ago in half the time.

Residents of Los Llanos de Aridane, one of the worst affected towns, have taken to carrying umbrellas and wearing eye protection as a precaution against the volcanic dust blanketing the streets and floating in the air.

“Last night the ash was irritating my eyes a lot, I had to use eye drops and my skin was stinging,” said Matilde Gonzalez Tavarez, a 45-year-old nursing assistant visiting her mother at a care home in Los Llanos.

“It’s helplessness, fear, insecurity. You don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said, while street cleaners brushed away the carpet of black ash behind her.

Juan Antonio Perez Gonzalez, 56, who runs a floristry business in the town, fears the worst is yet to come.

“I can’t put a good face on it or give you good news because this is a calamity,” he told Reuters. He said many of the townspeople were preparing to pack up and leave.

(Additional reporting by Emma Pinedo in Madrid; Writing by Nathan Allen; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Janet Lawrence)

La Palma residents grapple with devastation wrought by volcano

By Miguel Pereira and Borja Suarez

LA PALMA, Spain (Reuters) -Residents of Spain’s La Palma were struggling on Thursday to come to terms with the devastation wrought by the Cumbre Vieja volcano, which has been ejecting a destructive cocktail of ash, smoke and lava for more than 10 days.

Carmen Rodriguez, who lost her home in the village of Todoque, was caught off guard by the advancing column of molten rock.

“We never thought that the volcano was going to reach our house, never,” she said, recalling how she rushed to salvage belongings during a last-minute evacuation before the lava engulfed her home.

“There were so many people and difficulties, there was a queue. Thankfully we were able to take the washing machine, the fridge and a cooker that I recently bought.”

“I only ask that they give us a place to live, that they give us a habitable house, nothing more,” she said.

Some 6,000 people have been evacuated and are yet to return to their houses, a local government spokesperson said on Thursday.

Since erupting on Sept. 19 the volcano has destroyed more than 800 buildings, as well as banana plantations, roads and other infrastructure.

“It’s unimaginable that this would happen, and now we are living worse days than the COVID state, which was already a bit unreal,” said Dutch national Emilie Sweerts, who has lived on the island in the Canaries archipelago for six years.

“I really thought this would be my paradise island,” she said from her jewelry store in Tazacorte, a small coastal town which the lava ploughed through on its way to the sea, wrecking houses and farms.

After meandering downhill to the coast for nearly 10 days, the lava reached the ocean just before midnight on Tuesday a kilometer west of Tazacorte and has created a rocky outcrop more than 500 meters wide.

On reaching the water, the lava cools rapidly, binding to the cliffside and enlarging the island’s territory.

Despite fears of toxic gases from the lava reacting with the seawater, authorities said the air remained safe to breathe inland.

Emergency services warned that ash thrown out from the crater was blocking sunlight and reducing visibility.

Several villages near the coastline remained locked down as a precaution but banana farmers were allowed access to their plantations to tend their crops.

Reuters correspondents on the island said the eruption appeared to have calmed from around 1000 GMT and no lava was being expelled from the crater, though smoke continued to billow out.

(Writing by Nathan Allen, Editing by Andrei Khalip and Raissa Kasolowsky)