Toxic gas warning as lava from Spanish island’s volcano hits sea

Los Llanos de Aridane, Canary Islands — Lava from a volcano on Spain’s Canary Islands has reached the sea after 10 days of wiping out hundreds of homes and causing the evacuation of thousands of residents. Columns of steam that experts had warned could contain toxic gases shot upward when the bright red molten rock tumbled into the Atlantic Ocean at 11 p.m. on Tuesday.

The area had been evacuated for several days as authorities waited for the lava to reach the water. Its erratic flows and changes in the terrain had slowed its progress. Authorities established a security perimeter of about 2 miles and asked residents in the wider area to remain indoors with windows shut to avoid breathing in gases.

SPAIN-VOLCANO
Lava from the Cumbre Vieja volcano hits the ocean at Los Girres beach, in Tazacorte on the Canary island of La Palma, Spain, early on September 29, 2021. SUNSETS SWEDEN/AFP via Getty

Lava flows from the September 19 eruption of La Palma’s Cumbre Vieja volcano have destroyed at least 589 buildings, mostly homes on the island’s southwestern side that were caught on a slope below the volcano.

No deaths or serious injuries have been reported, thanks to the prompt evacuations of over 6,000 people in the first hours after last week’s eruption.
 
La Palma, home to about 85,000 people, is part of the volcanic Canary Islands, an archipelago off northwest Africa. The island is roughly 22 miles long and 12 miles wide at its broadest point.

Lava flows following the eruption of a volcano on the Canary Island of La Palma
A woman watches from Tijarafe as lava flows into the sea following the eruption of a volcano on the Canary Island of La Palma, Spain, September 28, 2021. JON NAZCA/REUTERS

Cleaning crews swept up ash in the island’s capital of Santa Cruz, while more small earthquakes that have rumbled under the volcano for weeks were registered by geologists.
 
The airport on La Palma, an important tourist destination along with its neighboring islands, remained closed due to a huge ash cloud that Spain’s National Geographic Institute said reached more than four miles above the ground.

Lava flows following the eruption of a volcano on the Canary Island of La Palma
Lava flows into the sea, as seen from Tijarafe, following the eruption of a volcano on the Canary Island of La Palma, Spain, September 29, 2021. BORJA SUAREZ/REUTERS

However, Laura Garcés, the director of Spain air navigation authority ENAIRE, said that she did not foresee any major problems for other airports on the archipelago or major air routes.