A wall of lava up to 40 feet high bore down on a Spanish island village yesterday. Residents scrambled to save what they could before the molten rock swallowed up their homes following a volcanic eruption on La Palma, Canary Islands.
Lava was still spewing from Sunday’s eruption in the Spanish islands off northwest Africa. The molten rock advanced slowly down hillsides toward the island’s more densely populated coast.
Todoque is the last village between the lava flow and the Atlantic Ocean. Officials evacuated 1,000 people there late Tuesday, bringing the total number of evacuated on La Palma to over 6,800.
Volcanic ash has fallen over a wide area. The volcano has also been spewing out between 8,000 and 10,500 tons of sulfur dioxide—which affects the lungs—every day. Authorities are warning people to keep children inside as much as possible due to possible breathing difficulties.
The rivers of lava have swallowed up about 320 buildings so far, mostly homes in the countryside. The lava has also ruined banana groves, vineyards, and other crops. Prompt evacuations helped avoid any human casualties.
The eruption and its aftermath could last for up to 84 days, says the Canary Island Volcanology Institute.
Life on the rest of La Palma, which is about 22 miles long and 12 miles wide at its widest point, has been largely unaffected. Undeterred tourists continue landing for previously scheduled holidays. The islands are a popular destination for European tourists due to their mild year-round climate.
Island residents hoping to save some belongings lined up for an escort back into the village. In the distance, they could see the lava advancing at around 400 feet per hour. Smoke hissed from the leading edge, destroying everything it touched. The magma could take several days to cover the remaining 1.25 miles to the sea.
Melisa Rodríguez, a Todoque resident, tried to stay positive and calm. “It’s hard to think straight about what you want to save,” she says. “But we are only allowed in for one hour, and you don’t want to take longer because that would be taking time away from others.”
Firefighting crews are trying to save as many houses as possible from being entombed by lava. They’re working nonstop to open a trench to divert the lava flow from inhabited areas.
Authorities say more dangers lie ahead for residents, including more earthquakes, possible new lava flows, toxic gases, volcanic ash, and acid rain. The lava, with temperatures exceeding 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, could cause explosions, trigger landslides, and produce clouds of toxic gas when it hits the ocean.
Javier López says his house for the past three decades appears to be in the lava’s path. He and his relatives were staying at a friend’s house. They grabbed a few documents, photos, and basic belongings when officials evacuated them on Monday.
“This is probably going to be the last time I see my home,” López says while waiting for a turn to head back to the village. “Or, in the best-case scenario, the house will remain isolated by the lava and inaccessible for who knows how long.” He hoped to recover a vehicle he had left behind and other valuables. He says, “I’ve put my whole life in a van.”
The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; He knows those who take refuge in Him. — Nahum 1:7
(Lava from a volcano flows, destroying houses on the island of La Palma in the Canaries, Spain, on September 21, 2021. AP/Emilio Morenatti)