IN PICS: Houses destroyed and villages evacuated after Canary Islands volcanic eruption

A volcano in Spain's Canary Islands has destroyed houses, authorities said Monday, as it spewed lava and ash after coming to life over the weekend and forcing some 5,000 people from their homes.

IN PICS: Houses destroyed and villages evacuated after Canary Islands volcanic eruption
Mount Cumbre Vieja, in Las Manchas area, La Palma. Photo: DESIREE MARTIN / AFP

A surge of lava destroyed around 100 homes on Spain’s La Palma island a day after a volcano erupted there, forcing thousands from their homes, local officials said on Monday.

Lava flows approach houses as Mount Cumbre Vieja erupts. Photo: DESIREE MARTIN / AFP

Sergio Rodriguez, a local mayor in a nearby village of El Paso said at least 20 homes were completely destroyed by the Cumbre Vieja volcano, which erupted Sunday for the first time in 50 years.

He spoke of the volcano’s indiscriminate destruction. “The lava left absolutely nothing in its path”, Rodriguez told TVE broadcaster, saying residents were living in uncertainty.

They will “not be going home for a while, most definitely”, he added.

Mount Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma. Photo: DESIREE MARTIN / AFP

Spanish media said as many as 100 homes might have been impacted by the eruption.

The local government predicts that the lava will flow to the southwest, towards more inhabited and wooded areas, before reaching the coast.

As of Sunday, no casualties had so far been reported.

The interior ministry said 200 members of the security services had been mobilised with a helicopter as back up.

A river of lava approaches houses as Mount Cumbre Vieja erupts in El Paso. Photo: DESIREE MARTIN / AFP
The eruption occurred after an earthquake swarm under La Cumbre Vieja, which began a week ago. Since then, there had been thousands of tremors, the strongest with a magnitude of nearly four, the Involcan vulcanology institute said.
Cumbre Vieja erupted twice in the 20th century, once in 1949 and again in 1971. 

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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.