LOS LLANOS DE ARIDANE, SPAIN – Lava continued to flow slowly from a volcano that erupted in Spain’s Canary Islands off northwest Africa, but the head of the regional government said on Monday he expected about 5,000 people to be evacuated. After that there will be no injury to the people of the area.
According to the Canary Islands Volcanology Institute, La Palma was blowing toward the sea on the island at 700 meters (2,300 ft) per hour.
Angel Victor Torres, the head of government for the Canary Islands, told SER radio that lava was moving through a mostly populated area in two streams. Private Spanish news agency Europa Press reported that about 100 homes were destroyed.
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“We are not expecting another explosion,” Torres said, adding that air traffic in the area was not affected.
“There will be considerable material loss,” he said. “We hope there will be no personal injuries.”
Officials said no further evacuation was expected.
“The lava probably won’t kill anyone, but it will destroy everything in front of it,” Nemesio Pérez, scientific coordinator of the Canary Islands Volcano Institute, told SER.
The eruption opened two cracks, about 200 meters (650 ft) apart. Officials said the lava streams would merge before reaching the ocean.
Aerial footage showed lava cutting a black stripe through sparsely populated rural areas.
Lava entered the city of Los Llanos de Ariadne, which is located close to the volcano. Town Mayor Noelia Garcia said people had been evacuated to the shoreline.
The head of the island’s government, Mariano Hernández, described the view of the lava-hit area as “sad”.
He said a wall of lava 6 meters (20 feet) high “is consuming houses, infrastructure, crops on its way to the coast,” state news agency Efe reported.
The Military Emergency Unit is increasing its deployment on La Palma to 180 troops and 57 vehicles, supported with three water-dropping aircraft due to arrive later on Monday.
Experts said the eruption could last for weeks or months.
The people of La Palma live largely by farming.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez was due to visit the affected area on Monday after canceling his trip to New York to attend the UN General Assembly.
The volcano erupted on Sunday after building up a week of seismic activity that was closely monitored by officials.
The Canary Islands Volcanology Institute reported an initial eruption shortly after 3 p.m. near the southern end of the island, which saw its last eruption in 1971.
Giant red plumes with black and white smoke topped the Cumbre Vieja volcanic ridge, which scientists were monitoring after days of accumulation of molten lava below the surface and small earthquakes.
Officials said that most of those who were evacuated were found to take their families or friends. The rest were in shelters.
La Palma, with a population of 85,000, is one of eight volcanic islands in Spain’s Canary Islands off the west coast of Africa. At their closest point, the islands are 100 kilometers (60 mi) from Morocco.
A 4.2-magnitude earthquake was recorded before the eruption, in an area known as Cabeza de Veca on the western slope, as the ridge descends to the coast.
As the eruption continued, at least two open mouths continued to blow bright red magma into the air, which then flowed in tight streams down the mountain slope.
The administration closed seven roads.
Hernandez, the island’s head of government, asked people to stay away from the blast.
“People should not come near the eruption site where lava is flowing,” “We are having serious problems with evacuation because the roads are jammed with people trying to get close enough to see it, Hernandez said.
Itahiza Dominguez, head of seismology at Spain’s National Geology Institute, told Canary Islands television that although it was too early to tell how long the eruption would last, earlier eruptions on the Canary Islands lasted weeks or months.
The last eruption on La Palma 50 years ago lasted just three weeks. The last eruption on all of the Canary Islands occurred underwater in 2011 off the coast of El Hierro Island. This went on for five months.
Barry Hatton reported from Lisbon, Portugal.