New fissure opens in Canary Islands volcano

Mount Cumbre Vieja erupts spewing a column of smoke and ash next to the Cabeza de Vaca area, in Cumbre Vieja, El Paso, in the Canary Island of La Palma, on September 21, 2021. (Photo by DESIREE MARTIN / AFP)

LOS LLANOS DE ARIDANE, Spain (AFP) — A new fissure emerged in the erupting volcano on Spain’s Canary Islands, belching out more lava and forcing another 500 people to flee, officials said Tuesday.

The Cumbre Vieja volcano has forced a total of 6,000 people from their homes and destroyed around 100 properties since it erupted on Sunday afternoon.

Emergency services said in a tweet late Monday “a new eruptive fissure has opened” and that the “population is being evacuated”.

The volcano straddles a ridge in the south of La Palma, one of seven islands that make up the Atlantic archipelago which lies off the coast of Morocco.

By Tuesday morning, around 500 additional people had been forced to leave their homes, said Lorena Hernandez Labrador, a councillor in Los Llanos de Aridane, a neighbouring municipality of 20,000 residents which has been badly affected by the lava.

The fissure emerged following an earthquake with a magnitude of 4.1 that occurred at 9:32 pm (2032 GMT) Monday, the Involcan volcanology institute said.

At the scene, long lines of cars could be seen waiting to leave the area as police sirens wailed, the fiery glow of the erupting volcano lighting up the dark skies, AFPTV images showed.

The speed at which the lava is moving has slowed, and by Tuesday morning, the white-hot mass of molten rock, which has a temperature of nearly 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,830 degrees Fahrenheit), had still not reached the western coast.

Officials initially said they expected it to reach the shore by Monday evening.

Although the Cumbre Vieja is shooting up vast plumes of thick black smoke several hundred metres into the sky and between 8,000 and 10,500 tonnes of sulphur dioxide per day, the airspace over La Palma has remained open.

Spain’s airport operator Aena said all of Monday’s scheduled flights had taken place without incident, with another 48 planned for Tuesday.

The eruption on this island of some 85,000 people, the first in 50 years, has caused significant damage, but so far nobody has been injured.

The last eruption on La Palma was in 1971 when another part of the same volcanic range — a vent known as Teneguia — erupted on the southern side of the island.

Two decades earlier, the Nambroque vent erupted in 1949.

© Agence France-Presse