Spanish Authorities Anxious as Volcano Lava Moves Toward Sea, Worry Over Toxic Explosions

Lava flowing from the Canary Islands' La Palma volcano in Spain continued Tuesday, making its way toward the shore, gaining speed and increasing explosive activity, the Associated Press reported.

Once the lava reaches the water, it could cause a release of toxic gas and explosions.

Tuesday, nine days after the volcano erupted, the lava reached within 800 meters of the Atlantic Ocean.

According to the Canary Island Volcanology Institute, the volcano has erupted a total of over 46 million cubic meters of lava, and 6,000 citizens have been evacuated.

No serious injuries or deaths have been reported, although local citizens have lost their homes, farms and way to provide for their families. The lava and ash have destroyed fields and irrigation systems, along with posing serious health risks to those in the area.

Miguel Ángel Morcuende, technical director of the Canary Islands emergency volcano response department, is monitoring the movement of lava and what could potentially aid in slowing its reach to the shore.

"The lava cools down as time passes and it meets uneven ground, which slows it down," he said. "And if it comes off the highway it was going along, that slows it even more because it spreads out wider."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Canary Island Volcano continues to erupt
Lava flows from a volcano on the Canary island of La Palma, Spain, on September 27, 2021. The volcano that has buried more than 500 buildings and displaced over 6,000 people since last week lessened its activity on Monday, although scientists warned that it was too early to declare the eruption phase finished and authorities ordered residents to stay indoors to avoid the unhealthy fumes from lava meeting sea waters. (AP Photo/Daniel Roca) Daniel Roca/Associated Press

By the afternoon, officials said various factors dictated the unpredictable speed of the lava flow, including its departure from a path over an earlier flow that had hardened. The river of cooled lava had helped the moving flow slide along.

A small hill and a built-up area also stood in the lava's way, and the shore area is flatter than the hills the lava has been flowing down.

Authorities said they don't expect the slow-moving lava to create a large disruption on the coast. But Eugenio Fraile, a researcher at the Spanish Oceanography Institute, told Cadena Ser radio that only scientists wearing protective gear will be inside a security perimeter when the flow hits the ocean.

The National Geographic Institute detected six earthquakes Tuesday in the area of the eruption, with the strongest measured at magnitude 3.3.

La Palma, home to about 85,000 people, is part of the volcanic Canary Islands, an archipelago off northwest Africa. The island is roughly 35 kilometers (22 miles) long and 20 kilometers (12 miles) wide at its broadest point.

Lava from the eruption has devoured everything in its path, destroying 589 buildings and 21 kilometers (13 miles) of roads on La Palma. The lava now covers 258 hectares (637 acres), mostly farmland, according to a European Union satellite monitoring agency.

No flights went in or out of La Palma's airport for a fourth straight day because of a huge ash cloud. Volcanic ash is hazardous for aircraft engines.

The Spanish government announced after its weekly Cabinet meeting Tuesday that it's providing an immediate grant of 10.5 million euros ($12.3 million) to buy 107 properties to rehouse local people and also provide them with income aid.

More aid, including for the rebuilding of public infrastructure, will be sent once the current emergency is over, government spokeswoman Isabel Rodríguez said.

Canary Island Volcano continues to erupt
Military Emergency Unit personal take gas reading measurements near a volcano on the Canary island of La Palma, Spain, in the early hours of September 28, 2021, in this photo from Ume (Unidad Militar de Emergencias). Officials said the lava is within about 800 meters (875 yards) of the shoreline. When the molten rock eventually meets the sea water, it could trigger explosions and toxic gas. (Luismi Ortiz/UME via AP) Luismi Ortiz/Associated Press