WorldThe eruption of the volcano in La Palma forces a mass evacuation

The eruption of the volcano in La Palma forces a mass evacuation

The Civil Guard has already evacuated 5,000 people affected by the new volcano in La Palma (Canary Islands), which erupted this Sunday at 11:12 am, Brasília time, in Montaña Rajada, in the forest area of ​​Cabeza de Vaca. The emergency level turned red on the island at 11 am, reaching the municipalities of Tazacorte, El Paso, Fuencaliente, Mazo and Los Llanos de Aridane, with about 35,000 inhabitants in total. Authorities believe that in total up to 10,000 people could be evacuated in the region and recommend that the population close all windows and external doors, lower shutters and go to established meeting points.

The new volcano on the Spanish island of La Palma, off the northwest coast of Africa, erupted at 3:12 pm this Sunday (local time; 11:12 am Brasília) when a small earthquake was detected in the neighborhood of Las Manchas, in the municipality of El Paso, followed by a huge explosion, a huge column of smoke and the expulsion of pyroclasts (volcanic rock). The magma caused two fissures, two different eruptive mouths in the mountain, through which lava flowed. According to Involcan (Volcanological Institute of Canarias), in so a few hours, these two cracks turned into seven. The volcano erupted in an uninhabited mountainous area and caused small forest fires. Local authorities asked that no one approach the area.

President Pedro Sánchez postponed his trip scheduled for this Sunday to New York, and moved to La Palma. The air navigation manager in Spain, Enaire, issued a preventive recommendation not to depart flights to the island.

After two quiet days on the island of La Palma, seismic activity had resumed with several earthquakes felt by the population this Sunday morning (the largest of magnitude 3.8), making it clear that the volcanic crisis was approaching an outcome. The movements were felt in six Canary Islands. In addition, numerous earthquakes with magnitudes above 2 are repeated at increasingly shallow depths near the small town of El Paso, and three of them were felt by the island’s population, according to data from the National Geographic Institute (IGN) of Spain . Since the phenomenon began, IGN has registered more than 6,600 small tremors in the Cumbre Vieja region, in the south of the island of La Palma. In the current pre-eruptive situation, the authorities decided to “prevent the withdrawal” of fifty people with mobility problems who live in the most affected neighborhoods.

The seismic movement of the Cumbre Vieja volcano, which began on September 11, resulted, in a rapid and violent process, in an eruption that occurs half a century after Teneguía, until now the youngest volcano in Spain. The new volcano emerged in an uninhabited mountainous area, while the mobility-impaired population was evacuated from nearby locations. The eruption caused small forest fires. Local authorities are asking that no one approach that region. The Canary Health Service has already treated 50 people who had started to leave preventively shortly before the eruption. They were transferred to a former barracks in El Fuerte and cared for by health workers from the Canary Islands and the Red Cross.

Live broadcast of the eruption.(RTVC)

Last Monday, authorities raised the volcanic alert to a yellow level, the second on a scale of four, which requires only a phase of preparation and information to the population, as has occurred in recent days. There were several informational meetings with residents and contingency plans were established for the orange and red alert hypothesis. One of the preparatory measures was to designate the football fields in the area as a meeting point. This alert affects the municipalities of Fuencaliente, Los Llanos de Aridane, El Paso and Villa de Mazo, with 35,000 people affected in all. For now, experts decided on Sunday to keep the alert at a yellow level. But the process, they warned, “may have a rapid evolution in the short term”, with “the probability that it will culminate in an eruption, without it being possible to establish a time window”.

Earthquake located by IGN on the island of La Palma.
Earthquake located by IGN on the island of La Palma.IGN / Europe Press

O seismic swarm, as this temporary concentration of small earthquakes in a single area is called, has alerted scientists to the possibility of a volcanic eruption on the surface. Volcanic activity in La Palma had ceased since the eruption of Teneguía in 1971 on the southern tip of the island. But in 2017 it started again, and since then there have been several swarms, until the latter and more intense, which began last Saturday, 11.

On Thursday, the scientists recorded a deformation of 10 centimeters in the terrain precisely in the area of ​​Cumbre Vieja where the earthquakes occurred, which would indicate the presence of magma in the subsoil exerting pressure against the surface. Since then, this deformation had subsided, but this Sunday the IGN reported that the island had swelled up to 15 centimeters again. In addition, seismic movements had increasingly shallow focuses. This crisis began with earthquakes more than 20 kilometers deep, and those of the last few days were already around 5 kilometers, with some, the most intense, just a few hundred meters from the surface.

The President (Governor) of the Canary Islands, Ángel Víctor Torres, spoke with the President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, and other members of his Executive to prepare the response to this possible eruption. The Minister of Science and Innovation, Diana Morant, who would travel to La Palma on Sunday to investigate the situation, decided to cancel the visit “given the latest developments”, and in her place would board the Director General of Civil Defense at the Ministry of the Interior, Leopold Marcos. In addition, various equipment was mobilized, including a plane requested by the Government of the Canary Islands from the Ministry for Ecological Transition to monitor the volcanic activity.

The volcanic crisis committee (Pevolca) had announced on Friday that it was likely “the occurrence of felt earthquakes of greater intensity, which can damage buildings”. They also warned of the possibility of falling rocks in Puerto Naos. For this reason, paths and forest trails were banned this Sunday in this part of the island. In addition, experts have also not ruled out the onset of other observable surface phenomena, such as changes in temperature, aroma and color of water, or anomalous behavior of animals.

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