Lava from the Spanish Canary Islands volcano that began cascading into the ocean two days ago has already covered an area of more than 25 football pitches.
As of Thursday evening, the newly forged peninsula of La Palma had doubled since morning to reach 20 hectares (50 acres), according to the Canary Islands Volcanic Institute (Involcan).
While the dreaded explosion and clouds of toxic gas released when molten rock hit the ocean have not materialized, a predicted wind shift could bring new dangers, the volcanic emergency committee warned. by Pevolca.
“With the weather that we are going to have from tomorrow” – a possible change in direction of the winds which have so far dispersed the volcanic gases towards the sea – it is possible that “the smell of sulfur” will be felt “with more intensity, ”said Ruben Fernandez, manager of Pevolca.
Since it began on September 19, the dramatic eruption has forced thousands of people from their homes, while lava has destroyed hundreds of homes, businesses and huge expanses of banana plantations.
The volcano spat rivers of lava that slowly flowed out to sea, finally emptying into the Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday evening. Since then, rivers of molten rock have continuously cascaded into the sea, creating a growing lava peninsula in what was once the sea.
While the initial submersion of flora and fauna beneath the river of molten rock is devastating, in the longer term it may prove beneficial, bringing minerals from the Earth’s core to the surface and providing habitat at the same time. underwater and land for species colonization, experts said.
Fernando Tuya, biodiversity researcher at the University of La Palma, said: “The lava will form a rocky platform that will become a substrate for many marine species in the future, that is in three to three. five years.
When the white-hot lava poured into the sea, it sent plumes of acid vapor into the air that experts say could irritate the skin, eyes and respiratory tract.
About 300 residents of the nearby town of Tazacorte were ordered to stay in their homes to avoid any risk of gas inhalation, and a 3.5-kilometer (two-mile) exclusion zone remained in place, which also extends two nautical miles offshore.
“Until we know that these areas are not at risk, these measures will be maintained,” Fernandez said Wednesday evening.
La Palma has been declared a natural disaster area, with lava making its way onto 476 hectares of land, the local government said on Twitter. It has so far destroyed 855 buildings, an increase of more than 200 in just over 24 hours, EU observation program Copernicus said on Twitter.
But while the La Cumbre Vieja eruption has forced around 6,000 people to flee their homes, so far no one has been injured or killed.
Although the volcano is still erupting, La Palma airport resumed operations on Wednesday after flights were suspended over the weekend due to the ash.