At least 200 homes have been destroyed. / SUR

Unstoppable lava flow reaches 12 metres high and destroys at least 200 homes

The main fork of volcanic material in La Palma is advancing at about 120 metres per hour and its arrival at the sea will be a 'critical' moment say the authorities

R.C. / CARMEN DELIA ARANDA

The unstoppable wall of lava, that reaches twelve metres in height in places, continues to leave a trail of destruction on La Palma, in Spain's Canary Islands.

The main magma flow from the volcano, which erupted last Sunday, continues on its course towards the coast, more slowly than expected, advancing at approximately 120 metres per hour.

Copernicus, the European programme for monitoring emergencies from space, has counted 180 homes affected, but there will be many more as the lava flow passes through Todoque, a town of about 1,300 inhabitants in the municipality of Los Llanos, where yesterday there were still many residents rushing to collect belongings and personal effects before they were evacuated.

It is the last urban obstacle in the path of the magma towards the sea.

6,000 people evacuated

With the number of residents evacuated from their homes already in excess of 6,000, no one dares to say when the lava flows from the volcano will hit the sea, but experts and public officials are worried that when the lava, at a temperature of 1,000 degrees, comes into contact with the salt water it will release toxic gases and explosions could occur.

The president of the Canary Islands, Ángel Víctor Torres, said that this moment would be "critical", and recalled the Teneguía eruption in 1971, when a person died from inhalation of the gases released when the lava hit the sea.

The technical director of the Canary Islands Volcanic Emergency Plan (Pevolca), Miguel Ángel Morcuende, has explained that the lava flows in two forks, one of which, has "minimal movement", just a few metres per hour. The other is the one that moves downhill - and which has already entered Todoque - fuelled, in addition, by the new ‘mouth’, the ninth. which opened on Monday night and forced the evacuation of the residents of Tacande, in El Paso.

Data

Currently, twelve Involcan technicians are working on the ground in La Palma, collecting and analysing data on the gases emitted, the thermal variations and the seismic movements. The National Geographic Institute has also deployed staff on the island to collect all possible information on the Cumbre Vieja volcano.

"From a scientific point of view, a lot of data is being collected. It will have to be analysed later and it will surely help us to better prepare ourselves for the next eruption,” Arnau Folch, a volcanologist at the Higher Centre for Scientific Research (CSIC). In fact, the volcanologist believes that volcanic surveillance has prevented human casualties.

"Material losses are inevitable. Unfortunately, nature is as it is, but everything that can be done is being done," he said.