Thousands briefly shut indoors on Spanish volcano island

LOS LLANOS DE ARIDANE (AFP) – Spain on Monday (Dec 13) ordered more than 30,000 people to remain indoors on La Palma island for several hours because of toxic gases from a volcano that has been erupting for months.

After several days of low-level activity, the Cumbre Vieja suddenly sprang to life on Sunday with several explosions sending a vast cloud of ash and smoke into the sky.

The regional government of the Canary Islands, which lie off Africa’s north-west coast, on Monday morning ordered residents of three municipalities to lock down owing to high levels of sulphur dioxide in the air.

But shortly after 2pm (10pm Singapore time), it lifted the order due to “the improvement in air quality”.

The three municipalities are home to roughly 33,000 people, or 38 per cent of the population of the island, according to national statistics institute INE.

The regional government told residents to close their windows and doors and seal them with tape to prevent air from coming in from the outside.

“Confine yourself, if possible, in the rooms located farthest inside,” it added in a statement.

More than 7,000 people have been evacuated from their homes since the volcano erupted on Sept 19, spewing out rivers of red-hot lava that have slowly crept towards the sea.

Nobody has died as a result of the eruptions, but more than 2,800 buildings have been destroyed, according to EU monitoring service Copernicus.

This is La Palma’s longest eruption and the third in a century, with previous ones in 1949 and 1971.

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