Lava flow from Spain’s La Palma volcano briefly stops as many remain confined over toxic gas fears

Lava flow from Spain's La Palma volcano briefly stops as many remain confined over toxic gas fears
Some houses are saved while others are engulfed by the lava from the volcano on the island of La Palma in the Canaries, on September 23, 2021. Photos: Desirée Martín/AFP
A Canary Islands volcano that has been erupting for over a week fell silent for two hours on Monday before starting to spew out lava again, as coastal residents were confined over toxic gas fears when the lava hits the sea.

Cumbre Vieja, which straddles a southern ridge in La Palma in the Atlantic archipelago, erupted on September 19, spewing out rivers of lava which have slowly crept towards the sea.

But on Monday morning, there was no lava and ash emerging, with the week-long rumble of the eruption fading to silence, an AFP correspondent at the scene said.

It was not immediately clear whether the eruption had stopped completely or merely paused, as smoke was still emerging from the top.

After two hours, Cumbre Vieja started emitting lava again.

“Volcanic activity in La Palma has reduced significantly in the last few hours. We must be very vigilant about how it evolves because the scenario can change quickly,” Madrid’s Institute of Geosciences tweeted.

The Cumbre Vieja volcano resumes its activity after a short period of inactivity in Los Llanos de Aridane on the Canary island of La Palma on September 27, 2021. (Photo by Desiree MARTIN / AFP)

“It seems the volcano has entered a phase of decreased activity. We will see how it evolves in the coming hours.”

And the Involcan volcanology institute gave a similar assessment.

“In the last hours, the volcanic tremor has almost disappeared, as well as the… explosive activity,” it tweeted.

For the past week, Cumbre Vieja volcano has spewed lava, ash and smoke, as seen here from Los Llanos de Aridane town on the Canary island of La Palma in September 26, 2021. (Photo by DESIREE MARTIN / AFP)

Contacted by AFP, Involcan was unable to say whether the eruption had finished or just paused, with a spokesman saying its experts were “evaluating the different scenarios”.

Overnight, the inhabitants of several coastal areas were ordered to stay at home to avoid harm from the release of toxic gases when the lava finally reaches the sea, a process which has been much slower than initially expected.

When the molten lava enters the ocean, experts warn it will send clouds of toxic gas into the air, as well as explosions and a fragmentation of the lava, which shoots outwards like bullets.

The authorities have set up a no-go zone to head off curious onlookers.

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