Volcanic Ash Halts Flights On Spanish Island

The Cumbre Vieja volcano, pictured from Tijarafe, spews lava, ash and smoke, on the Canary Island of La Palma, at night on October 10, 2021.  (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO / AFP)

 

Planes were grounded on La Palma, one of Spain’s Canary Islands, for the second straight day Sunday because of ash from a volcano that began erupting a month ago.

Airlines scrapped all 38 flights scheduled for Sunday, most of them to and from other islands in the Atlantic archipelago off Morocco, an airport spokesman said.

Only four of the 34 flights scheduled for Saturday went ahead as planned.

Local airline Binter said in a statement it would “restart activity as soon as possible and as long as conditions allow flights to resume safely”.

La Cumbre Vieja volcano, which lies 15 kilometres (nine miles) west of the airport, erupted on September 19, spewing out rivers of lava that have slowly crept towards the sea.

So far no one has been killed by the continuous lava flows, but the molten rock has covered 750 hectares (1,850 acres) and destroyed 1,800 buildings, including hundreds of homes, according to the European Union’s Copernicus disaster monitoring programme.

About 7,000 people have been evacuated from their homes on the island, which has a population of around 85,000 people.

The eruption has covered a large area with volcanic ash and has been accompanied by dozens of minor earthquakes most days.

La Palma airport has had to close twice since the eruption began and airlines have sporadically had to cancel flights.

The head of the regional government of the archipelago, Angel Victor Torres, said Sunday that scientists monitoring the eruption have seen no indications that it is abating.

“We are at the mercy of the volcano, it’s the only one who can decide when this ends,” he told reporters.

Spain’s central government and the regional government of the Canary Islands have so far earmarked 300 million euros ($348 million) for reconstruction on the island, which lives mainly from tourism and banana plantations.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has vowed to “spend whatever money is needed to reconstruct this marvellous island”.

“We will be there until we have rebuilt 100 per cent of everything which this volcano has destroyed,” he added during an interview with private television La Sexta on Thursday.

It is the island’s third volcanic eruption in a century, the last one taking place in 1971.

Thousands Locked Down As La Palma Volcano Destroys Cement Works


This image grab taken from a video released by the Spanish Geological and Mining Institute (IGME-CSIC) shows one of the lava streams flowing and carrying massive block stones after a cone collapsed in the north side of the Cumbre Vieja volcano, in the Canary Island of La Palma, on October 11, 2021. Handout / Spanish Geological and Mining Institute (IGME-CSIC) / AFP

 

Up to 3,000 residents of the Spanish island of La Palma on Monday were ordered to stay indoors after lava from a volcano destroyed a cement works, raising fresh fears of toxic gases.

La Cumbre Vieja volcano began erupting on September 19, forcing 6,000 people from their homes as the lava scorched its way across 600 hectares (1,400 acres) of land.

Miguel Angel Morcuende, head of the cell handling the crisis, told journalists Monday that part of the cement factory had gone up in flames.

“Consequently, and until we can analyse if the air quality allows for normal life, we have decided to lock down,” he added.

This image grab taken from a video released by the Spanish Geological and Mining Institute (IGME-CSIC) shows an aerial view of one of the lava streams flowing and carrying massive block stones after a cone collapsed in the north side of the Cumbre Vieja volcano, in the Canary Island of La Palma, on October 11, 2021.Handout / Spanish Geological and Mining Institute (IGME-CSIC) / AFP

 

The order concerns between 2,500 and 3,000 people living near the cement works on the west of the island in the Canaries archipelago, he said.

On Saturday, part of the volcano’s cone collapsed, sending new rivers of lava pouring down the slopes towards an industrial zone.

Flights to the island resumed on Saturday after two days on hold because of the ash blasted from the volcano.

Despite the damage from the eruption — more than 1,200 buildings have been destroyed, say local officials — no has so far been killed or injured in the disaster.

This is the third volcanic eruption on La Palma Island, home to 85,000 people, in a century, although the last one dates back to 1971.

AFP