Lava flows from the volcano into the ocean, and winds push poisonous gases towards the sea

Posted on Wednesday, September 29, 2021 at 6:58 pm

A river of lava from the volcano that erupted ten days ago on the island of La Palma, in the Spanish Canary archipelago, continued to flow into the Atlantic Ocean on Wednesday, but winds were pushing toxic gases toward the large area, currently protecting a locally traumatized one. Population.

Images from Playa Nueva, on the island’s western coast, showed a torrent of lava sinking into the ocean from the top of a hundred-meter cliff amid giant plumes of steam.

The Spanish Institute of Oceanography indicated in a tweet, accompanied by pictures, that the lava was gaining ground on the sea, and its accumulation was forming in the water a kind of pyramid sedimentation reaching a height of about fifty meters and still growing.

But the most important danger, the poisonous gases from the sudden contact between lava at a temperature of more than 1,000 degrees Celsius and sea water at a temperature of 22 or 23 degrees, seems to have been removed immediately thanks to the winds. As long as it doesn’t change direction…

One of the people in charge of the Canary Islands Volcanic Emergency Plan (Pivolca) told National Radio, Ruben Fernandez.

– scary encounter –

This encounter between lava and sea water was particularly frightening, as it leads to the production of toxic gases and harmful particles, which if inhaled can cause breathing difficulties.

To prevent this danger, the regional government of the archipelago has decreed a security perimeter with a radius of 3.5 kilometers on land and two nautical miles in the sea around where the lava is expected to reach.

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The entry of lava into the ocean occurred shortly after 11:00 p.m. local time (22:00 GMT) on Tuesday, after the lava flow erupting from Cumbre Vega volcano abruptly accelerated.

“The lava now has an open channel to the ocean (…), which is a perfectly defined route by which you will go to the sea,” David Calvo, a spokesman for Involcan, said in an interview with national television TVE.

He added that this is “good news”, because this road to the ocean “prevents new blockages, new lava dams”, which will force it to spread horizontally towards other areas.


Another reason for hope: Flights with La Palma, halted due to security conditions considered inadequate, resumed on Wednesday with the arrival of the first plane from the neighboring island of Tenerife.

For Arnau Folch, a volcanologist at the Supreme Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), keeping track of air movement will nonetheless depend on the weather. “If the volcano continues to emit ash, it will be necessary to see every day how the column develops according to the prevailing winds,” he told AFP.

– ‘Another island’ –

The eruption of Cumbre Vieja, which began on September 19, did not result in any deaths or injuries but resulted in the evacuation of more than 6,000 people and caused severe damage to the infrastructure of this small island of 85,000 inhabitants.

In an interview with Radio COPE, the head of the regional government of the archipelago, Angel Victor Torres, spoke of the “terrible devastation”.

“There’s nothing left in this whole area but lava,” Torres said, mapping an island completely disfigured by a river of lava in places up to six hundred meters wide. “The island of La Palma in this part is another island.”

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According to the European system of Copernican geospatial measurements, lava has destroyed at least 656 buildings – not all of them housing – and covered 268 hectares of land.

Mr. Torres also stressed that banana plantations – the island’s main activity along with tourism – had suffered “serious damage”. “We are talking about a third of all the Canary Islands’ banana production,” he said.

The previous two explosions occurred in La Palma in 1949 and 1971. They killed a total of three, two of them by inhaling gas.

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