More than 100 evacuated from top of Spanish volcano after cable cars stall mid-air

Dozens of tourists were evacuated by helicopter on Thursday from shelters at the top of a volcano on Spain's Tenerife island where they spent the night after being plucked from two cable cars that stopped mid-air.

More than 100 evacuated from top of Spanish volcano after cable cars stall mid-air
A person hangs from a rope beneath a cable car booth after tourists became trapped above the El Teide volcano. Photo: AFP

A total of 111 people, including eight children, were forced to stay at three shelters on Mount Teide, the highest mountain in Spain and a major tourist attraction, cable car company Teleferico del Teide said in a statement.

They included tourists who became trapped in two cable cars that stopped working mid-air on Wednesday roughly 60 metres (200 feet) from the ground, as well as visitors who were already at the top of the volcano and were waiting to get down.

Helicopters, firemen, and park rangers were called in to help with a pulley system to get about 70 tourists who were trapped in the cable cars back to the ground during a four-hour rescue operation.

Each was placed in a harness and then lowered through a hatch of the cable car.

Many of the tourists who were plucked from the cable cars made it to the base station of the volcano at an altitude of 2,356 metres (7,700 feet)  on foot despite the rocky terrain, but those with reduced mobility spent the night at the shelters.

Four helicopters evacuated the tourists, many wearing shorts and sandals, from the shelters on Thursday to the base station, an AFP photographer at the scene said.

Rescuers also escorted tourists by foot to the base station, where medical staff and psychologists were waiting.

“There is no serious injury, some people were dizzy, had high blood pressure, some scrapes, light injuries,” a local emergency services spokeswoman said.

The tourists who spent the night at the shelters had food and water and were accompanied by emergency services staff, he added.

The authorities did not provide details regarding the nationalities of the tourists who became trapped but the AFP photographer said the majority were foreigners, including Australian and British citizens.

The peak of  Mount Teide, located in the heart of Tenerife in the archipelago of the Canary Islands, is over 3,700 metres high, offering spectacular views of the island and the stars.

The cable car takes visitors up almost to the summit, although the last stretch must be done on foot. It will remain closed until Saturday.


3,000 people in Spain’s La Palma forced indoors as lava reaches sea

Around 3,000 people were ordered to remain indoors on the Canary island of La Palma on Monday as lava from an erupting volcano reached the sea, risking the release of toxic gas.

3,000 people in Spain's La Palma forced indoors as lava reaches sea
The lava flow produced by the Cumbre Vieja volcano has reached the sea before. (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO / AFP)

The Canary Islands Volcanic Emergency Plan (Pevolca) “ordered the confinement” of residents of coastal towns and villages near where the lava cascaded into the sea, sending large plumes of white smoke into the air, local emergency services said on Twitter.

The order was given due to “the possible release of gases that are harmful to health,” it added.

The order affects “around 3,000” people on the island, Miguel Angel Morcuende, technical director of Pevolca, told a news conference.

This is the third time that a lava flow has reached the Atlantic Ocean since the Cumbre Vieja volcano in the south of the island erupted on September 19th, covering large areas with ash.

All flights to and from La Palma’s airport were cancelled on Monday because of the ash, the third straight day that air travel has been disrupted.

And for the first time since the eruption started, local authorities advised residents of La Palma’s capital, Santa Cruz de La Palma in the east, to use high-filtration FFP2 face masks to protect themselves from emissions of dioxide and sulphur.

Most of the island, which is home to around 85,000 people, is so far unaffected by the eruption.

But parts of the western side where lava flows have slowly made their way to the sea face an uncertain future.

The molten rock has covered 1,065 hectares (2,630 acres) and destroyed nearly 1,500 buildings, according to Copernicus, the European Union’s satellite monitoring service.

Lava has destroyed schools, churches, health centres and irrigation infrastructure for the island’s banana plantations — a key source of jobs — as well as hundreds of homes.

Provisional damage was estimated on Friday at nearly €900 million ($1 billion), according to the regional government.

The island of La Palma, part of the Canary Islands archipelago off northwestern Africa, is experiencing its third eruption in a century, with
previous ones in 1949 and 1971.