The predicted eruption on the Canary Island of La Palma finally occurred at 3.30 pm yesterday afternoon. No one has been hurt; everyone who could be affected has been evacuated and there is absolutely no danger for anyone on any of the other islands.
The earth opened on the afternoon of Sunday 19th September in a beautiful pine-wooded hillside in the sparsely populated area of Cabeza de Vaca on Montaña Rajada, belching out lava, ash and smoke and creating an incredibly loud roar described as “breathtaking” by onlookers.
Two fissures about 200 metres apart have opened up and eight outlets of lava have so far been detected. The lava flow is descending the hill towards the sea and has already affected over 80 properties, although 5,000 people were safely evacuated from the area well before the eruption commenced.
As night fell the red-hot lava flow glowed in the darkness, creating images that have not been seen on the Canaries since the Volcano of Teneguía erupted further south in La Palma almost exactly 50 years ago.
Mariano Hernández, President of La Palma’s Cabildo, said he was pleased to report that there had been no human loss in the eruption, but recognised that material losses had been considerable “Between 80 and 100 homes have been affected by unstoppable lava flows of up to 6 metres in height,” Hernández reported.
Spanish President Pedro Sánchez cancelled a flight to New York to travel to La Palma to offer support to the islanders yesterday, and assured La Palma that, once the eruptions finished, material losses would be recovered “as soon as possible.” Loss by volcanoes is classed as an uninsurable “Act of God” by most insurance policies, and Sánchez’s words may hint at the establishment of a special government compensation fund.
The lava continues to make its way towards the sea this morning, and experts have absolutely no way of predicting when the eruption will stop, or whether it will increase in size. However, so far it has fitted the pattern of an “effusive” eruption perfectly, with no violent explosions and lava flows that are easily avoided.
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