Volcanic eruption in the Canary Islands: what we know

The Cumbre Vieja volcano on the Spanish island of La Palma, in the Canary archipelago, under close surveillance for days due to intense seismic activity, erupted on Sunday for the first time in 50 years. Large columns of smoke, ash and lava jets escaped from several points of the volcano, according to an AFP correspondent on the spot.

“The eruption started in the Cabeza de Vaca area, in El Paso,” the island’s local government (cabildo) announced on its Twitter account, which has started to carry out more than 1,000 evacuations in inhabited areas closest to the volcano. “The population is asked to exercise extreme caution and stay away from the eruption area to avoid any unnecessary risk,” he continued.

Evacuation has been made compulsory in around ten municipalities placed on high alert and several temporary shelters have been set up.

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The president of the Canary Islands region, Angel Victor Torres, assured that no victim had been identified, and stressed the “luck” that this eruption took place “in a depopulated area” of this island with more than 80 000 inhabitants, one of the seven of the archipelago located off the north-west of Africa.

According to the projections of the cabildo, the lava flows from the volcano, located in the center of the island, should move southwest towards inhabited and wooded areas, before arriving on the coast.

Several thousand earthquakes

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who was due to travel to New York for the United Nations General Assembly, decided to go there immediately. “In view of the situation on the island of La Palma, the President of the Government has postponed his trip scheduled today to New York and will visit the Canary Islands this afternoon to follow the development of the situation,” he said. the press service of the Spanish government indicated in a statement.

The Cumbre Vieja volcano had been under close surveillance for a week due to a huge surge in seismic activity. Several thousand low-magnitude earthquakes, up to nearly 4 on the Richter scale, have been recorded since last Saturday by the Canary Islands Volcanological Institute. Millions of cubic meters of magma had also moved inside the volcano while the ground had risen by about 10 centimeters in the area of ​​the volcano.

The authorities, who had told the population to be ready for several days, proceeded a few hours before the eruption to evacuate people with reduced mobility in the municipalities closest to the volcano.

Last eruption in 1971

The Interior Ministry said more than 200 members of the security forces had been mobilized with a helicopter. The last eruption of Cumbre Vieja took place in 1971.

Of volcanic origin, the Spanish archipelago of the Canaries experienced its last eruption in 2011, underwater this time, at the island of El Hierro, which had resulted in the evacuation of several hundred people from certain areas. of this island.

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