The volcano on the Canary Island of La Palma started erupting again on Monday, after a brief pause of two hours around 8.30am local time. According to specialists, these pauses are normal, although normally not so sudden and abrupt.
This unexpected stop was confirmed by the strong decrease of volcanic tremor, i.e. the energetic footprint of the volcano. This can either mean that the magma is meeting less resistance as it emerges on the surface, or that the volcano is expelling less material.
The Institute of Geosciences in Madrid (IGN) warned that the situation would have to be closely monitored, as the “scenario can change rapidly.” The IGN added that it is normal for volcanic activity to cease temporarily, but said the suddenness of the change in behavior was strange.
Two hours later, the volcano was once again emitting “columns of smoke and gases.”
In the meantime, the tongues of lava that have destroyed everything on their path did not halt their progress. Small plumes of smoke are now visible from the port of Tazacorte that experienced yesterday a large coastal landslide.
The geological institute detected 16 earth tremors in the northern area of Fuencaliente, which lies to the south of the volcano. The most intense of these was detected at 6.05am on Monday at a depth of 10 kilometers. In general, all of them were above a magnitude of 2 on the Richter scale, and were at depths of between nine and 13 kilometers.
The increase in seismic activity could be due to a readjustment of the rock on which the magma feeding the volcano is located, or it could also be related to the injection of magma from other sides.
“In the most recent hours, the volcanic tremor has nearly disappeared, as well as the explosive activity,” the Volcanology Institute of the Canaries (Involcan) reported on Monday. “The activity has reduced notably in the last few hours in La Palma,” explained the Madrid Geosciences Institute. “The progress must be carefully monitored because the scenario could change very fast.”
Meanwhile, the volcano has destroyed more than 200 hectares of land and swallowed up between 500 and 600 buildings.
Since Sunday, both lava flows (south and main) have joined together. As a result, the flow of the molten rock has accelerated, now moving at an average of 100 to 200 meters per hour. The lava is moving faster because it is hotter, as it comes from a deeper part of the volcano, which makes its fluidity greater.
This reactivation led to the collapse of the church bell tower in Todoque, a building that fire crews had tried to save last week by digging trenches around.
The increased speed with which the lava was moving on Sunday evening forced an urgent evacuation of four residential areas due to the risk of toxic gases that will be released when the lava meets the seawater. There was fears that the molten rock could have reached the ocean last night.
“Imminent” arrival at the sea
Affected residents have been instructed to stay at home, with the doors and windows closed until the situation changes. The lava will continue to flow until it cools sufficiently to slow its movement.
The crisis committee reported late on Sunday night that the lava flow had already passed the neighborhood of Todoque, which had been evacuated several days ago, and was around 1,600 meters from the coast after crossing the LP-213 road – an essential route for access to the south of the island.
The regional premier of the Canary Islands, Ángel Víctor Torres, said on Monday that the lava from the Cumbre Vieja volcano would “imminently” reach the coast.
The lava could reach the water at some point on Monday, experts said.
Any chance of acid rain was ruled out yesterday for the coming 24 hours. The average levels of sulfur dioxide detected by the monitoring network show that the air quality is good. [El Pais 1, El Pais 2]
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