Officials told residents of the Spanish island to keep their windows closed, warning of powerful chemical reactions as molten rock mixes with seawater.
Ten days into the volcanic eruption on the Spanish island of La Palma, a pyramid formed off its coast on Wednesday, when lava flows began pouring into the ocean.
Local officials called on residents on Wednesday morning to keep their windows closed because a mixture of toxic gases and tiny particles can be released when molten lava comes into contact with cold water. Scientists have also been warning that chemical reactions between lava and water can cause powerful underwater explosions.
The lava entering the water should be regarded as “a very dangerous moment,” said Angel Victor Torres, regional leader of the Canary Islands, an island group off northwestern Africa that includes La Palma.
The eruption began on 19 September in La Palma’s sparsely populated Cumbre Vieja Nature Park, which houses 85,000 people. Still, it has forced more than 6,000 residents to evacuate, as lava and fire cut a path of destruction that swept away more than 500 homes. While banana plantations and other areas of the field have also been wiped out, there are no reports of anyone being killed or injured.
Scientists said it was not clear how long the eruption would last. In the past 10 days, the volcano has released more than 50 million cubic meters of lava, a volume greater than in the three weeks since the last eruption on La Palma in 1971.
The lava flow reached the water after making an unexpected journey towards the sea, at one stage almost stopping in flatter terrain. Along the way, several minor earthquakes also occurred, and new holes were created from which the lava escaped. Last weekend, La Palma’s airport had to be closed briefly because ash made it impossible for pilots to guarantee visibility.
With lava finally flowing into the ocean, “the main concern now is the production of chloride clouds that can affect air quality and affect the surrounding environment,” said volcanologists at the National Research Council of Spain and Natural Hazards. Professor Arnau Folch said. a telephone interview. “It’s a fairly complex situation, in which multiple dangers arise at the same time.”
The pyramid-like structure is expected to rise off the coast of La Palma as more lava accumulates. In the 1971 eruption, La Palma’s surface area increased by about 5 percent, Mr Folch said.
On Wednesday, regional leader Mr Torres told Cope, a Spanish radio station, that residents of La Palma would struggle to come to terms with what was lost in the blaze. Since the lava began to erupt 10 days ago, “the entire Canary Islands have slept little, with the people of La Palma seized by fear and deep sadness,” he said.
On Tuesday the Spanish government allocated 10.5 million euros – more than $12 million – to help La Palma recover. About half are to pay for new homes for those whose homes were destroyed in the explosion.