Politician Proposes Bombing La Palma Volcano As Eruptions Enter 38th Day

As the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano on the Spanish island of La Palma enters its 38th day, a politician from a neighboring island has raised the idea of dropping bombs on it to divert lava flows.

These flows have caused devastation on La Palma—located in the Canary Island archipelago off the northwest coast of Africa—destroying hundreds of buildings and laying waste to large tracts of land.

Since the eruptions began on September 19, around 7,000 people on the island have had to flee their homes.

While it may seem that there is little that can be done to stop such a powerful force of nature, the president of the nearby island of La Gomera's municipal council has suggested a drastic solution to divert the lava flows—dropping bombs using aircraft.

In an interview with Canary Island media outlet Radio Faycán, Casimiro Curbelo said: "Isn't there a plane that flies and can drop... today the technology is very reliable... and boom! And send the lava in a different direction? Maybe it's madness, but I get the impression from a technological point of view that it should be attempted."

While this may seem like a fantastical idea, the idea of using explosives to divert lava flows is not totally without precedent. In 1935, for example, the U.S. Army actually tried to bomb lava flows emanating from the Mauna Loa volcano on Hawaii when an eruption threatened the town of Hilo.

The lava flows stopped around a week after the bombing campaign, something which the volcanologist who ordered the air strike held up as proof that the mission had been a success.

But other pilots and geologists expressed skepticism about the impact of the bombing, National Geographic reported. In reality, the rate of lava production from the volcano appeared to have dropped off, coincidentally, around the time of the strikes, providing an explanation for why the flows came to a halt.

Using explosives to divert lava flows was also tried on other occasions in other parts of the world, such as on the Italian island of Sicily during eruptions of Mount Etna.

On Tuesday, the internal cone of the Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma collapsed, leading to greater emissions from its main vent. Lava flows from the volcano continue to flow to the west of the island toward the Atlantic Ocean, reaching the water in some parts.

Seismologists also recorded a 4.8 magnitude earthquake on Tuesday, which was felt in La Gomera and Tenerife—another neighboring island.

Data from the La Palma local government shows that the Cumbre Vieja eruption has destroyed more than 2,000 buildings, with lava flows now covering an area of around 900 hectares.

Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma
Lava flows from the Cumbre Vieja Volcano on October 8, 2021 in La Palma, Spain. A politician from one of Spain's Canary Islands raised the possibility of bombing the volcano to divert lava flows. Marcos del Mazo/Getty Images