Volcanic eruption hastens evacuation on La Palma in Spanish Canary Islands | CBC News

A volcano on Spain’s Atlantic Ocean island of La Palma erupted Sunday after a weeklong buildup of seismic activity, prompting authorities to speed up evacuations for some 1,000 people.

The Canary Islands Volcanology Institute reported the eruption on Cumbre Vieja, which last erupted in 1971. Huge plumes of black-and-white smoke shot out from a point in the volcanic ridge where scientists had been closely following the accumulation of molten lava below the surface.

Tinges of red could be seen at the bottom of the black jets that shot rocks into the air. One lava flow was quickly seen sliding down the mountainside and approaching a group of houses.

La Palma, with a population of 85,000, is one of eight islands in Spain’s Canary Islands archipelago. At their nearest point to Africa, they are 100 kilometres from Morocco.

Lava and smoke are seen following the eruption of a volcano in the Cumbre Vieja national park at El Paso, on the Canary Island of La Palma, on Sunday. (Borja Suarez/Reuters)

Itahiza Dominguez, head of seismology of Spain’s National Geology Institute, told local TV station RTVC that although it is too early to tell how long this one would last, prior “eruptions on the Canary Islands lasted weeks or even months.”

After days of what scientists call an “earthquake swarm,” authorities on La Palma had already started to evacuate residents with reduced mobility on Sunday shortly before ground broke open.

5 villages put on evacuation alert

The area near the southern tip of the island where the ridge is located is sparsely populated. Residents of the five nearby villages had already been told to be on alert and ready to leave their homes in case of an eruption.

A 3.8-magnitude quake was recorded before the eruption as vibrations from the seismic activity were felt on the surface.

The Scientific Committee of the Volcano Risk Prevention Plan said stronger earthquakes “are likely to be felt and may cause damage to buildings.” The committee of experts also noted that a stretch of the island’s southwest coast was at risk for landslides and rock falls.

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