La Palma’s volcanic eruption is going strong 3 weeks later

LOS LLANOS DE ARIDANE, Canary Islands — Three weeks since its eruption upended the lives of thousands, the volcano on Spain’s La Palma island is still spewing out endless streams of lava with no signs of ceasing.

Authorities on Sunday monitored a new stream of molten rock that has added to the destruction of over 1,100 buildings. Everything in the path was destroyed, including homes, farms and swimming pools, as well as industrial buildings located in an agricultural region.

The collapse Saturday of part of the volcanic cone sent a flood of bright red lava pouring down from the Cumbre Vieja ridge that initially cracked open on Sept. 19. Large chunks of hardened lava were carried by the swift-flowing stream. Soon, an industrial park was engulfed.

“We cannot say that we expect the eruption that began 21 days ago to end anytime soon,” said Julio Perez, the regional minister for security on the Canary Islands.

La Palma is part of Spain’s Canary Islands, an Atlantic Ocean archipelago off northwest Africa whose economy depends on the cultivation of the Canary plantain and tourism.

The new rivers of lava have not forced the evacuation of any more residents since they are all so staying within the exclusion zone that authorities have created. Some 6,000 residents were promptly evacuated after the initial eruption.

Government experts estimated that the largest of the lava flows measures 1.5 km (.9 miles) at its widest point, while the delta of new land being formed where lava is flowing into the Atlantic has reached a surface of 34 hectares (84 acres).

The scientific committee advising the government said that if the delta continues to grow outwards into the sea, parts of it could break off. Jose Maria Blanco, a spokeswoman for the committee, said that this could cause explosions and gas emissions, as well as large waves. However, it should not pose a threat to anyone outside of the no-go area.

The Canary Islands’ tourism industry was already hard hit by the pandemic, and officials were urging tourists not to keep staying away.

“This eruption is impacting a part of the island, but La Palma is still a safe place and can offer a lot to those who visit,” said Mariano Hernandez, the island’s leading authority.

The last eruption on La Palma 50 years ago lasted just over three weeks. Five months ago, the last eruption of all Canary Islands was recorded underwater from the shores off El Hierro Island in 2011. It lasted for five months.

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