Volcano erupts on Spanish Canary Island forcing 1,000 to flee

A volcano erupted on the Spanish island of La Palma on Sunday, forcing 1,000 people living nearby to abandon their homes before lava flows could reach them.

Huge red plumes topped with black and white smoke spewed from the Cumbre Vieja volcanic ridge in an area known as Cabeza de Vaca near the southern end of the island.

Scientists had been keeping a close eye on the ridge, which last erupted in 1971, after detecting a series of small earthquakes and build-up of molten lava below the surface.

Mariano Hernandez, president of La Palma island, said there were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries, but warned that rubberneckers posed a risk of hampering the evacuation effort.

He said: ‘People should not come near the eruption site where the lava is flowing.

‘We are having serious problems with the evacuation because the roads are jammed with people who are trying to get close enough to see it.’

Itahiza Dominguez, head of seismology of Spain’s National Geology Institute, told Canary Islands Television that although it was too early to tell how long this eruption would last, prior ‘eruptions on the Canary Islands lasted weeks or even months’.

The last eruption on La Palma 50 years ago lasted just over three weeks.  The most recent on all the Canary Islands, which occurred underwater off the coast of El Hierro in 2011, lasted five months.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez cancelled his trip to New York to attend the UN General Assembly so he could travel to the Canary Islands.

After days of what scientists call an ‘earthquake swarm’, authorities on La Palma started evacuating residents with reduced mobility to a military outpost shortly before ground broke open.

Residents of five nearby villages were already on alert to leave their homes in case of an eruption.

The Scientific Committee of the Volcano Risk Prevention Plan said stronger earthquakes ‘are likely to be felt and may cause damage to buildings’.

It also said part of the island’s southwest coast was at risk for landslides and rock falls.

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