Columns of steam that experts say could contain poisonous gases burst upward when the bright red molten rock fell into the Atlantic Ocean at 11 p.m. local time on Tuesday. The area had been evacuated for several days as authorities waited for lava to travel 6.5 kilometers to the water. Its erratic flows and changes in terrain had slowed its progress. Authorities established a 3.5-kilometer security perimeter and asked residents of the wider area to stay indoors with windows closed to avoid breathing gas.
Lava flows from the September 19 eruption on La Palma destroyed at least 589 buildings, mostly houses on the southwest side of the island that were taken on a slope below the volcano.
No fatalities or serious injuries have been reported, thanks to the rapid evacuation of more than 6,000 people in the first hours after the eruption last week.
Just before spilling over a cliff into the sea at a local point known as Los Guirres, lava rolled over the coastal road, cutting off the last road in the area that connects the island to several villages.
La Palma, home to around 85,000 people, is part of the volcanic Canary Islands, an archipelago off northwest Africa. The island is approximately 35 kilometers long and 20 kilometers wide at its widest point.
Clean-up crews swept away the ash in the island’s capital, Santa Cruz, while other small earthquakes that rumbled beneath the volcano for weeks were recorded by geologists.
La Palma Airport, a major tourist destination with its neighboring islands, remained closed due to a huge ash cloud which, according to the Spanish National Geographic Institute, reached up to seven kilometers.
However, Laura Garces, director of the Spanish air navigation authority ENAIRE, said she did not foresee major problems for other airports in the archipelago or major air routes.
Experts have said that it is impossible to determine how long the rash will last. Previous eruptions in the archipelago have lasted for weeks, if not months.