The wall of lava now stands 15 metres high in places. / AGENCY

La Palma volcano is expelling magma with greater force, scientists confirm

The lava flow has slowed, and there are doubts that it will reach the sea, but it has already destroyed 350 properties. The Canary Islands Government has bought 73 apartments on two developments to house people who have lost everything

ANTONIO PANIAGUA

On Thursday evening, 23 September, a new series of powerful explosions rocked the area of the La Palma volcano, in Spain's Canary Islands. They were recorded at 5.20 pm, local time, by the Volcanological Institute of the Canary Islands (Involcan).

The Cumbre Vieja volcano has changed its eruptive phase in the last hours and has evolved to one that is visibly more explosive. On its sixth day of eruption, the Cabeza de Vaca volcanic column is expelling magma with greater force, scientists have confirmed.

Meanwhile, ash, slag and lava continue to shape the land of La Palma as if it were clay. The two arms of molten lava moved slowly yesterday, at four metres per hour, compared to Tuesday night, when the red-hot block was advancing at fifteen metres an hour. It is destroying everything in its path. Already more than 166 hectares and 350 properties have been destroyed, according to the latest data from the European Earth Observation System Copernicus.

The director of the National Geographic Institute (IGN) in the Canary Islands, María José Blanco has said the eruption continues with more explosive phases, and with more emission of ash, while seismicity has dropped, although a new rebound is not ruled out.

“The lava flows are advancing slowly. It is logical, when moving away from the point of emission. One of the forks has stopped, the one that is further north," explained Blanco.

Meanwhile, the experts of the Canary Islands Volcanic Emergency Plan (Pevolca) are not sure that the lava will reach the sea. “The mathematical models predict that it will continue to conquer lands, but its advance is slowed because the lava becomes more viscous as a result of its cooling.”

The wall of lava now stands 15 metres high in places, equivalent to a five-storey building. And the scorched rocks have already invaded part of the Todoque district, with 1,300 inhabitants. The firefighters' efforts to divert the flow by digging a channel to divert it away proved unsuccessful.

The Canarian president said, after a meeting of the expert committee, that there have been no new evacuations. The authorities continue to relocate the 6,000 people who have had to abandon their homes in military installations, hotels and flats, while the disabled are being cared for in social care centres and hospitals.

The Canarian Vice President and Minister of the Treasury, Román Rodríguez, confirmed on Thursday that his department will immediately release the necessary funds to buy the first 73 homes that will be made available to those affected by the volcanic eruption at Cumbre Vieja.