The lava from the volcano threatens infrastructure in Los Llanos. / REUTERS

Spanish PM sees no respite in sight for erupting volcano on La Palma

Pedro Sánchez has made his fourth visit to the island in less than a month as another 66 earthquakes were registered this Wednesday

The end of the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano is still some way off it appears. On the 25th day of activity, neither Spain's prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, nor the president of the Canary Islands, Víctor Ángel Torres, believe that the crater is close to extinction. In fact, on Wednesday, almost all the indicators reflected a high intensity of emissions and a greater explosiveness was observed.

Sánchez, said he saw no sign that the Cumbre Vieja was remitting. "It is the fourth visit that I have made to the island of La Palma, and unfortunately it will not be the last," he said. For now, the volcanic rocks are still red-hot and little can be done to rebuild the island, except to provide emergency accommodation for those evacuated and the PM asked locals for "patience".

At present, three lava streams remain active: a first runs along the north face, which is losing strength in relation to the one to the south, which is advancing at 50 metres per hour.

Magnitude 4.4 earthquake

On Wednesday, experts from Spain’s National Geographic Institute detected about 66 earthquakes in the region, one of which had a magnitude of 4.4 in the town of Mazo, although the depth of the seismic movements ranged from 12 and the 37 kilometres, something that reassures the experts.

The volume of tephra (the solid material thrown into the air by the volcano) is estimated between 8 and 9 million cubic metres since the start of the eruption.

The emission of sulphur dioxide, one of the best indicators to measure the virulence of the volcano, was estimated at 17,700 tonnes per day during the middle of the afternoon, a value higher than the previous days. To mark the end of volcanic activity, these gases would have to be reduced to a figure of about 100 tonnes. As a consequence, the plume of gases and ash rises over three kilometres in height above the area.

The technical director of the Canary Islands Volcanic Emergency Plan (Pevolca), Miguel Ángel Morcuende, said that the front, which on Tuesday forced the evacuation of some 800 residents of the La Laguna neighbourhood, in Los Llanos de Aridane, “advances very slowly”. According to Morcuende, there is a possibility that it "will stop and not move again". However, the destruction is now irreparable and the northern lava flow has swept away almost the entire Callejón de la Gata industrial park leaving only an avocado packing plant and part of a scrapyard.

"Safe island"

Morcuende highlighted that the area affected by the volcano represents only 8 per cent of the island's surface. "This must be highlighted because it is a safe island," he said.

The territory won from the sea by the lava, has not grown much in the last hours, although it is acquiring a greater depth. The lava delta covers an area of 35 hectares and is some 75 metres deep, a fact that makes it very unlikely that the platform will fracture, as was first feared.