The erupting Cumbre Vieja volcano in Spain's Canary Islands. / EFE

No respite: Volcano cone collapse creates new rivers of lava on La Palma

Experts have warned of a significant increase in seismic activity, both in frequency and intensity after more than 100 were recorded in a single day

ANTONIO PANIAGUA

Six weeks after the eruption began, the collapse of the main cone of the La Palma volcano that happened over the weekend has resulted in the crater emitting a large amount of lava that is spreading easily in more directions.

The director of the Volcanic Emergency Plan of the Canary Islands (Pevolca), Miguel Ángel Morcuende, said on Monday that after the partial collapse of the main cone on Sunday, there have been major overflows that have created "rivers of lava." By Monday afternoon the number of ‘mouths’ spewing lava amounted to six, although since the eruption began, at least ten have been counted.

The new 'tongue' of lava that emerged on Saturday has been standing for almost a day in the Corazoncillo area, very close to the solar power facilities on the island.

One hundred earthquakes in a day

Meanwhile, the earthquakes are getting worse. Experts have warned of a significant increase in seismic activity, both in frequency and intensity. In a single day, a hundred tremors were recorded occurred, many of them in intermediate layers, between 10 and 15 kilometres deep. This is an indicator that the pressure underground is growing as it is released through earthquakes.

The eruption has also gained more vigour and is far from subsiding. The amount of sulphur dioxide released into the atmosphere is around 53,600 tonnes per day, far from the 500 that would have to be recorded to show that the volcanic eruption was ended.

Unstable crater

The volcano’s crater is extremely unstable: its main cone rebuilds as soon as it collapses, with the consequent danger that the lava will be diverted to other areas. "A new partial rupture of the upper part of the cone is not ruled out," explained the spokesperson for the Pevolca scientific committee, María José Blanco.

Prefab homes

The lava has been merciless with the buildings, to the point that it has devastated 1,287, according to the land registry data provided by Pevolca. Of these, 1,036 are homes. The flows continue to spread and have already cover 901.2 hectares of land. The Canary Islands government is managing the purchase and installation of 200 prefabricated modular homes for some of the 154 families who have lost their homes.