LOS ARIDANE: A surge of lava destroyed around 100 homes on Spain’s Canary Islands a day after a volcano erupted, forcing 5,000 people to leave the area, local authorities said on Monday.
The Cumbre Vieja erupted around 3pm on Sunday, sending vast plumes of thick black smoke into the sky and belching molten lava that oozed down the mountainside on the island of La Palma.
The island is one of the most westerly of the Atlantic archipelago off the coast of Morocco.
“Right now we have evacuated 5,000 people and around 100 homes have been destroyed,” said Lorena Hernandez Labrador, a councillor in Los Llanos de Ariadne, a town several kilometres from the volcano.
Images on Twitter showed slow-moving lava creeping down the mountainside, pockets of flame erupting as it rumbled ever closer towards a group of homes standing just metres away. Elsewhere, piles of glowing lava surged onto the patio of a house.
Describing the scene as “desolate”, La Palma’s top official Mariano Hernandez Zapata said the lava “on average about six metres (20 feet) high”.
“This tongue of lava is engulfing everything in its path. It’s tragic to see how many homes have just gone up in smoke,” he told Spain’s public television. It also consumed a local primary school where 25 children were enrolled, the headmistress told Cadena Ser radio.
“Up to about two hours ago, we thought it was going to be saved, but unfortunately it has been completely engulfed. It’s totally destroyed,” said Angeles Nieves, her voice breaking.
There was huge anguish among the thousands of people evacuated from their homes, with many wondering if they would have anything to go back to.
“Right now, we’re watching the news and the lava is 700 metres from our home. I’m really worried because we don’t know I don’t know what’s going to happen to it,” Angie Chaux, 27, who left with her husband and three-year-old son, said.
“The police gave us three minutes to get our things. It was all very fast.” La Cumbre Vieja straddles a ridge in the south of La Palma, which is home to around 80,000 people.
Experts had been keeping a close watch on the volcano after observing a recent upsurge in seismic activity and magma displacements. An “earthquake swarm” — a sequence of seismic events occurring over a short period — began on Sept 11.
Since then, there have been tens of thousands of tremors, the strongest with a magnitude of nearly four, the Involcan volcanology institute said.