The slow (but inevitable) advance of lava through industrial areas, including cement factories, generated toxic gases that forced the Canary Islands Volcanic Emergency Plan (Pevolca, the crisis committee that handles the eruption) to determine new confinements on the island of La Palma for the third time since the eruption. The measure affects a diamond-shaped area that includes several locations in El Paso and Los Llanos de Aridane, regions where between 2,500 and 3,000 people live, according to Pevolca spokesman Miguel Ángel Morcuende. The mayor (island administration) of La Palma, in addition, has banned from this Monday that the evacuated areas are accessed through the municipality of Tazacorte until the evolution of the volcanic emergency north of the Todoque mountain is studied.
Since local noon on Monday, several Civil Guard vehicles have been circulating through the area reminding people, through loudspeakers, that residents should not leave their homes, unless strictly necessary. The biggest danger now is related to the constant effusive (lava outflow) and explosive activity that has occurred since the collapse on Saturday on the north side of the volcanic cone. Currently, there are two tongues of lava flowing from the north of this mountain: the one from the south, which joined the previous flow and advances more rapidly towards the sea; and the northern one, which has been in the industrial estate of Los Llanos de Aridane for two days and is the one that forced the confinement.
“The lava is advancing”, warned Morcuende. “Slowly, but it’s advancing.” Pevolca considers it “probable” that the first of these two languages will reach the coast, flow onto Perdido beach (500 meters north of the first mouth) and create a new lava delta in this area. This language is currently 300 meters away from the coast, according to the volcanologist at the National Geographic Institute of Spain and spokesperson for the Pevolca scientific committee, María José Blanco.
The last two days have been especially destructive “as a result of the fluidity of the lava tongues”. As a result, the affected surface reached 591.1 hectares, 65.33 more than on Sunday — one of the biggest daily increases since the eruption began on 19 September.
A total of 753 affected buildings were registered, of which 620 are homes, 70 are warehouses, 29 have industrial use, 19 correspond to leisure and hotels and 15 have other uses, such as schools and assistance centers. In addition, 150 hectares of crops were affected: 74.82 of banana trees, 45.16 of vines and 8.78 of avocado trees.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez will travel to La Palma for the fourth time on Wednesday, Executive Spokeswoman Isabel Rodríguez announced at a press conference after the Council of Ministers meeting. The visit was confirmed by the president of the Government of the Canary Islands, Ángel Víctor Torres.
Torres participated by teleconference in the meeting of the Mixed Commission, which brings together the Government of Spain, the Canary Islands, the Mayor of La Palma and the municipal administrations involved. “The volcano is still very active,” he said. “This phenomenon has nothing to do with others, like a fire”, he emphasized. “It has its own parameters and scientists do not dare to estimate when it will end.”
“The volcano shows no signs of stopping tomorrow, neither later nor in a week,” Nieves Sánchez, a researcher at the Geological and Mining Institute of Spain (IGME), told EL PAÍS. “The activity changes a lot every day, the cone is built first and then it is destroyed. In recent days we are seeing deeper seismic activity again. […]. It may be reactivating, although this is something you have to wait to confirm with observation from the outside. My opinion is that it will continue to erupt for a while, we don’t know how much and we won’t be able to tell until the patterns of earthquakes and terrain deformation change.”
The meeting of the Mixed Commission made it possible to detail the aid of more than 200 million euros (1.3 billion reais), an amount that will be allocated to the purchase of equipment, employment generation programs, aid for the purchase of housing and also to the Caldeira de Taburiente National Park. Ángel Víctor Torres recalled, in statements to the press, that the Executive has already acquired 18 houses, and in the next sessions of the public company of social housing Visocan another set of properties will be purchased. He also announced that on Wednesday the allocation criteria will be defined and that next week the first houses will be delivered.
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