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At least 100 homes destroyed after volcano erupts in Canary Islands

At least 100 homes destroyed after volcano erupts in Canary Islands
Smoke and magma rise from a volcanic eruption in La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain, on Sunday. Photo by Miguel Calero/EPA-EFE

Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Dozens of homes have been destroyed in the Canary Islands and thousands of people evacuated danger zones after a volcanic eruption sent lava flows to the surface on what's typically a popular tourist destination, authorities said Monday.

The eruption began Sunday on the island of La Palma and glowing hot magma broke through fissures and reached the surface.

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Officials said Monday the flow was moving slowly toward the ocean, but creating a path of destruction. About 100 homes have been destroyed so far, they said.

There have been no casualties, however, mainly due to immediate evacuations in dangerous areas. Officials said about 5,000 residents fled.

The Spanish Civil Guard estimated that 5,000 more people may also need to be evacuated, and advised residents to shut their doors and windows and turn off electricity, water and gas pipes.

Military personnel are working to minimize the lava danger, officials said. Water-dropping aircraft were scheduled to arrive sometime Monday.

Popular with European tourists, the Canary Islands are a Spanish territory off the northwestern coast of Africa.

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Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez cancelled a trip to the United States to attend the United Nations General Assembly. Instead, he will travel to La Palma and visit a Red Cross shelter for evacuees.

Experts say the eruption could last for several weeks or months, depending on the amount of magma accumulated in the volcano's reservoir. Once there are no emissions over a 48-hour period, officials will determine that the eruption has ended.

The eruption occurred after a series of small tremors in the area this month. It's the first eruption on La Palma since 1971.

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