Firefighters retreat as Canary Island volcano explosions intensify

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Three more towns have been evacuated and firefighters have to retreat amid ongoing volcanic eruptions on Spain’s La Palma island.

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The return of volcanic activity has forced airlines to cancel flights due to a “large” cloud of gas and ash, believed to be the largest since the volcano erupted on Sunday.

Authorities on Friday ordered the evacuation of parts of Tajuya, Tacande de Abajo and Tacande de Ariba that were not previously evacuated.


Residents there were initially told to stay indoors to avoid being hit by any ash and lava fragments, but Canary Islands emergency services decided to make a U-turn on the decision once it became clear. The situation has not stabilized.

The local fire service said on Twitter that the “high presence of ash” forced firefighters to withdraw from the town of Todok.

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The crew were reportedly in the middle of a clean-up operation in the city on Friday afternoon, when a new vent opened on the side of the volcano. Videos shared on social media showed massive shockwaves emanating from the blast site.

“The volcano is in a new eruptive phase … firefighters will no longer work today,” said the Tenerife Fire Service, which has been deployed to help in La Palma.

Since erupting on Sunday, the Cumbre Vieja volcano has ejected thousands of tons of lava and destroyed nearly 400 buildings, including many homes, on the western side of the island of 85,000 people.

About 7,000 people have had to flee their property amid loud explosions, a large cloud of ash and a torn crack, spurting additional lava.

The Canary Volcano Institute said ash clouds had spread about two and a half miles into the sky on Friday, forcing regional airline Binter to cancel flights in and out of the island.

Although the airline could not say when it would resume operations, the airspace over the island remains open except for two small areas near the blast site.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said he and ministers plan to declare La Palma a “devastated zone” and provide aid to those affected.

No serious injuries or deaths have been reported so far, which some say is due to the speed of evacuation.

However, about 15 percent of the island’s economically important banana crop could be at risk – putting thousands of jobs at risk, according to Reuters.

Scientists say that lava flowing on La Palma can last for weeks or even months. The last eruption on the island, in 1971, lasted just over three weeks.

Meanwhile, the last eruption on all the Canary Islands occurred underwater in 2011 off the coast of El Hierro Island – it lasted five months.

Additional reporting by agencies


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