How bad is the damage in La Palma – and why is lava meeting the ocean so dangerous?

Authorities have warned people on the island of La Palma of fresh dangers after a new volcanic vent blew open and rivers of unstoppable lava flowed towards more densely populated areas and the sea.
Residents have been cautioned about earthquakes, toxic gases, volcanic ash and acid rain after several small earthquakes shook the Spanish island, which sits in the Canary Islands archipelago off northwest Africa.

How bad has the damage been?

Image: Lava and smoke billow into the air following the eruption of a volcano on La Palma

Image: Lava from a volcano eruption flows on the island of La Palma. Pic: AP
The volcanic eruption on Sunday afternoon forced the evacuation of 6,000 people and unstoppable rivers of molten lava have destroyed around 350 houses and caused significant damage to banana plantations, schools and infrastructure.
The island of 85,000 people is a popular tourist destination for Europeans.
Thousands of small earthquakes have happened in the days following the eruption.

Image: A night drone captures a volcano erupting and tongues of lava in La Palma. Pic: UME

Image: Ana Rodriguez cleans a car following an eruption

Image: Victor Brito, a pharmacist, sweeps ashes on the street

Image: Another local sweeps the street after the volcano eruption
How long will the eruption last?

More on Spain

Related Topics:

The aftermath of the volcanic eruption could last for up to 84 days, the Canary Islands Volcanology Institute has said.
It based its calculation on the length of previous eruptions in the archipelago.

Image: A map shows La Palma located within the Canary Islands, off the northwestern coast of Africa

Image: A map showing the major cities of La Palma and the Cumbre Vieja volcano

Image: A map shows the location of the Cumbre Vieja eruption and the flow of lava
On Tuesday a new volcano vent opened up 3,000ft north of the Cumbre Vieja ridge, where the first eruption happened on Sunday.
Why is lava meeting the ocean so dangerous?

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Drone footage shows lava swallowing swimming pools and homes

The flow of lava has slowed significantly, making it ambiguous whether it will fan out across land and destroy more homes or flow into the sea.
A day after the eruption on Sunday it moved at 700m (13ft) per hour, but has since slowed to four metres (13ft) per hour.

Image: Lava advances through Cabeza de Vaca in El Paso, La Palma. Pic: AP

Image: Lava from the La Palma volcano approaches a house. Pic: AP
But as the lava slowed, it has grown thicker, rising up to 15m (50ft) high in some places. It now covers some 166 hectares (410) acres.
Angel Voctor Torres, the head of the Canary Islands government, said on Tuesday that there would be a “critical moment” when the lava reaches the sea.

Image: A house remains intact as lava flows near Las Manchas on La Palma. Pic: AP

Image: A house burns due to lava from the volcano
The rivers of molten rock have a temperature exceeding 1,000C and could cause explosions and produce clouds of gas when they meet the sea.
Mr Torres reminded locals of the island’s last eruption in 1971, when one person died after inhaling the gas emitted as lava met the water.
What dangers lie ahead?

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Firefighters filmed lava oozing down streets

A change in wind direction on Tuesday blew volcanic ashes, which irritate the eyes and lungs, over a vast area on the western side of the island.
Authorities have warned people to clean food and clothes to avoid ingesting the toxic ash.
The volcano has also been spewing out 8,000 to 10,500 tons of sulfur dioxide, which also affects the lungs, every day, according to the Volcanology Institute.

Image: Lava and smoke rise following the eruption of a volcano on the Island of La Palma. Pic: REUTERS/Nacho Doce

Image: The cloud of ash and sulphur dioxide expelled by the volcano of La Palma. Pic: AP
However, the Canary Islands’ chief vulcanologist, Miguel Angel Morcuende, said the levels of toxic gases currently being emitted were not dangerous for humans.
“There is no problem with the sulphur levels,” he said. “The readings being taken are not dangerous for human health.”

Image: A member of emergency services stands by a building as lava travels near homes in Todoque, Spain

Image: Members of the Forest Fire Reinforcement Brigades (BRIF) help residents after the eruption

Image: Volcano erupts on Spanish Canary Island of La Palma
However, a thick plume of cloud has spread some 2.6 miles (4.2km) into the air, raising concerns around visibility for pilots.
The island’s airport remains open but authorities have told flights to stay away from the eruption site.

Image: A cloud of smoke from the erupting volcano is seen from an aircraft
Winds are expected to push the cloud eastward over the rest of the Canary Islands, the Iberian peninsula and the Mediterranean, according to the European Union’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service.
How is the government helping?

Image: The cloud of ash and sulphur dioxide expelled by the volcano on La Palma. Pic: AP

Image: Lava flows from the Cumbre Vieja volcano.

Image: An image from the satellite Copernicus Sentinel-2 shows the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano
Mr Torres described the region as a “catastrophe zone” and said he would request funding to rebuild roads, water pipes and create temporary accommodation for families who have lost homes and their farmland.

Image: The erupting volcano seen from a satellite

Image: A satellite image shows the erupting volcano in the Cumbre Vieja national park
Spain’s King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia will visit the island on Thursday.

Source : Sky News