La Palma has been suffering seismic events for a few weeks, and scientists predicted it would result in an eruption on the island. That duly took place at around 3PM on Sunday afternoon, when there was an earthquake and the eruption started on Montaña Rajada. The eruption took place within metres of the spot volcanologists predicted.
The last eruption on La Palma was in 1971.
Spectacular images were broadcast around the world, showing lava flowing towards the ocean, crossing roads and engulfing some homes. There has been no loss of life, as inhabitants were evacuated from the area quickly.
What’s happened so far?
There have been small earthquakes around the island for a few weeks. The actual eruption started at 3.12PM on Sunday, and a fissure opened up which pushed smoke and gas into the air, and lava started to flow slowly toward the ocean.
The site of the eruption is a forested region, but the lava was flowing in a path towards several small villages, so an initial evacuation of around 5,000 was quickly made. The lava engulfed one small village on Sunday evening, and crossed the main road in the area.
Overnight on Sunday, a second fissure opened up, and lava can be seen flowing from eight different points in an area about 200 by 200 metres. 461 homes have been engulfed.
Flights to the island and neighbouring La Gomera were interrupted in Sunday but resumed on Monday, using European airspace conventions when there is volcanic dust in the air. Aircraft have to check flight plans again with a “Volcano control” immediately prior to departure. As of 24th September, flights to La Palma and El Hierro have been suspended, but to other islands are currently unaffected.
Update 27th September. The volcano has stopped emitting smoke and lava and seismic activity has fallen away. It is hoped this may be an end to the eruption.
Update 28th September. Once again, the volcano is active and both lava and smoke are flowing again.
An exclusion zone of 2KM has been established and it has been confirmed on Monday that a total of seven roads have been cut off in the area.
The Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has cancelled a trip to New York for the UN assembly, and has instead flown to La Palma to oversee operations and expedite support for those who have lost their homes. Citizens who have been evacuated are being put up in temporary shelters on a soccer pitch in a nearby town.
How long will it last?
Scientists have now been able to measure the lava reservoir and their estimation is that the eruption will last between 24 and 84 days.
The 1971 eruption on La Palma lasted 24 days.
How bad is it?
There has been no loss of life. People and farm animals have been evacuated. The volcanoes in The Canaries are the slow flowing “Hawaii” type, and even during the six years of eruptions in Timanfaya, no life was lost as people are able to walk faster than the lava flows.
The biggest loss so far is property, and the lava, although it flows slowly, is relentless, and nothing is able to stop it. Each flow consists of many tonnes of molten rock at well over 1000 degrees centigrade.
By Wednesday, an area of 212 Hectares had been covered by lava, and 461 houses lost.
Will it affect Lanzarote or the other islands?
La Palma is the furthest island from Lanzarote, at around 400KM distance, so there has been no effect for this island, and we don’t expect it to affect us at all.
The ash cloud can be seen from the west coast of Tenerife, but the predominant wind here is blowing it away from the other islands. Barring a dramatic wind change, there shouldn’t be an issue with the ash cloud from La Palma.
The Tsunami Story
This one is already doing the rounds on social media. Rest assured there is no danger of a Tsunami.
The Canaries are a volcanic region and we have this type of event regularly. The most recent was on the island of El Hierro in 2011, and that one lasted for a few months.
It’s tragic for the people who have lost their homes, and all of Spain stands with them. But you can rest assured it won’t affect your holiday to Lanzarote
We’ll update all sections of this article as the news changes.