Lava flowing from Spain’s Canary Islands’ first volcanic eruption in 50 years has forced the evacuation* of 5,500 people and destroyed around 100 houses – but the streams were advancing* slower than originally predicted, authorities said on Monday.
The flow of molten* rock will not reach the Atlantic Ocean on Monday evening local time as earlier estimated, an official said. Experts say that if and when the lava flow does reach the sea, it could trigger more explosions and clouds of toxic gases.
“The movement of lava is much slower than it was initially … There has not been a large advance during the day,” local emergency co-ordinator Miguel Angel Morcuende told a press briefing on Monday evening. He said the stream had made its way about halfway to the coast.
A new stream of lava erupted from the volcano late on Monday, prompting the evacuation of residents in the town of El Paso, the regional emergency agency announced on social media.
The volcano first erupted on Sunday, shooting lava hundreds of metres into the air, engulfing* forests and sending molten rock towards the ocean over a sparsely* populated area of La Palma, the northwestern-most island in the Canaries archipelago*.
No fatalities or injuries have been reported but drone footage captured two tongues of black lava cutting separate paths through the landscape as they advanced down the volcano’s western flank towards the sea.
A Reuters witness saw the flow of molten rock slowly tear its way through a house in the village of Los Campitos, igniting the interior and sending flames through the windows and onto the roof.
Around 100 homes have been affected by the volcano’s eruption, said regional emergency official Jorge Parra, adding that residents should not fear for their safety if they follow authorities’ recommendations.
Six roads on the island were closed, officials said.
Regional leader Angel Victor Torres said the damage would be substantial.
“It is still active and will continue to be active for the next few days,” he said.
“It was horrible,” said Eva, a 53-year old tourist from Austria. “We felt the earthquake, it started in the morning … then at three in the afternoon, the lady from our house came and said ‘You have to pack everything and leave quickly’.”
“We’re happy to go home now,” Eva said at the airport, boarding a flight back home after cutting her trip short.
Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto said the eruption was “a wonderful show” which would attract more tourists to the tourism-dependent archipelago – comments that were criticised by the opposition at a time when many residents have lost their homes.
Some of the tourists at the airport also disagreed with Maroto.
“We want to leave as fast as possible,” said Wienard, a 55-year- old social worker from Salzburg.
But at least one visitor was happy.
“I felt like a little child inside, very excited,” said Kabirly, 26, a market researcher from Belgium. “It was also my birthday yesterday, so it was sort of a candle on the island cake!”
About 360 tourists were evacuated from a resort in La Palma following the eruption and taken to the nearby island of Tenerife by boat early on Monday, a spokesperson for ferry operator Fred Olsen said. A total of more than 500 tourists had to leave their hotels.
Anticipating* reduced visibility, maritime authorities on Monday closed down shipping to the west of the island.
La Palma had been on high alert after thousands of tremors* were reported over a week in Mt Cumbre Vieja, which belongs to a chain of volcanoes that last had a major eruption in 1971 and is one of the Canaries’ most active volcanic regions.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez visited some affected areas and met officials on Monday, and later took to social media to praise the emergency personnel’s response.
Airspace around the Canary Islands has so far remained open with no visibility problems, the Enaire civil air authority said, after a local airline cancelled four flights between islands.
- evacuation: removal, clearance, egress, escape
- advancing: proceeding, moving, pushing forward
- molten: melted, liquid, flowing
- engulfing: completely covering or surrounding
- sparsely: thinly covering, patchy, not abundant
- archipelago: collection, cluster or chain of islands
- anticipating: expecting, predicting, foreseeing
- tremors: trembling or shaking underground, a seismic signal
- How many people have been evacuated?
- How many houses have been destroyed so far?
- La Palma is part of what archipelago?
- When was the last major eruption in the region?
- What is the name of the volcano that erupted?
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1. Volcano survival kit
If you lived anywhere near a volcano that could erupt at any time (even if it’s been 50 or more years since the last eruption, as in this case) what would you need to pack in a survival kit to leave quickly?
Volcano survival kit items:
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: Science; Personal and Social; Critical and Creative Thinking
When hot lava meets the cold ocean, it has a reaction called “laze”, which is short for lava haze. You need to keep well clear of this effect as it’s a scientific reaction that produces a type of acid into the air which can cause respiratory problems and eye irritation. The authorities in the Canary Islands have been preparing for when the lava from this eruption meets the Atlantic Ocean. What things would they need to consider to ensure the safety of humans and wildlife?
Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: Science; Critical and Creative Thinking
1. Summarise the article
A summary is a brief statement of the main points of something. It does not usually include extra detail or elaborate on the main points.
Use the 5W & H model to help you find the key points of this article. Read the article carefully to locate who and what this article is about, and where, when, why and how this is happening. Once you have located this information in the article, use it to write a paragraph that summarises the article.