La Palma airport closed due to accumulation of volcano ash

This photograph shows the Cumbre Vieja volcano spewing lava, ash and smoke
Since the Cumbre Vieja volcano began erupting on September 19th, it has forced thousands out of their homes, while lava has destroyed hundreds of houses, businesses and huge swathes of banana plantations. Victor SVENSSON / AFP
There are still no flights operating out of La Palma airport on Sunday after they were cancelled a day earlier due to the accumulation of ash from the Cumbre Vieja volcano, airport operator Aena said.

Aena said flights would be resumed once weather conditions made this possible.

It also recommended that passengers who were planning on travelling check with their airline in advance.

Twenty national flights were cancelled on Saturday, said a spokesman for the Spanish airport authority.

Air travel to the island in the Spanish-owned Canaries archipelago, off the Atlantic coast of North Africa, has been regularly affected since the volcano erupted on September 19th for the first time in 50 years.

The new closure came as experts raised the volcano’s Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) to three from two due to the volume of ash that had fallen since September. 

However, the Canary Islands Volcanology Institute, Involcan, clarified on Twitter that this did not mean eruptions were getting worse or that the volcano was changing its behaviour.

No-one has died in the eruption on the island of 85,000 people, but it caused serious damage and led to the evacuation of more than 7,000 people, with some buildings swallowed by lava flows.

More than 1,000 hectares of land and more than 2,600 buildings were destroyed, according to the European geospatial measurement system, Copernicus.

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

During a visit on Friday and Saturday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced new aid for the economy and infrastructure of the island, which depends in particular on tourism and banana cultivation.

The island of La Palma is experiencing its third eruption in a century, after those of the San Juan volcano in 1949 and the Teneguia in 1971. 

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