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Volcano in Canary Islands disrupts air travel, sends residents fleeing

By Jake Thomas
Volcano in Canary Islands disrupts air travel, sends residents fleeing
A fresh eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano in the Canary Islands on Saturday. Residents from three villages on the island of La Palma were evacuated from their homes after the volcano became increasingly explosive. Photo by Miguel Calero/EPA-EFE

Sept. 25 (UPI) -- Flights have been canceled and residents ordered to evacuate as a volcanic eruption on the Spanish island of La Palma intensified.

The volcanic eruption began Sept. 19 in Cumbre Vieja rift located in the Canary Islands archipelago off the northwest coast of Africa and is the first since 1971.

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The Canary Islands government said Saturday that it's maintaining the evacuation of the villages of Tajuya, Tacande de Abajo and Tacande de Arriba as a safety measure. Enaire, an air navigation manager in Spain and west Sahara, has also restricted areas in for the municipalities of El Paso and Los Llanos de Aridane.

Lava has destroyed 400 homes and buildings on the island of 85,000 and caused the evaluation of 6,000 people, reports CNN.

Ash rising from the volcano continues to be a concern and the local government has instructed residents to remain inside and to wear goggles and face coverings if they venture out.

The Canary Islands Volcanology Institute said on Twitter on Friday that the eruption sent shockwaves of air from sudden decompression through the atmosphere that can travel faster than the speed of sound. Earlier that day, a second emission vent opened west of the eruption's primary allowing more gas and lava to escape.

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Spanish airport operator Aena said Friday on Twitter that it closed the La Palma airport because of the build-up of ash, which crews were cleaning Saturday.

Local authorities and the Spanish government were working to provide relief to residents, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Friday. He said his government was preparing for the island's reconstruction, pledging that residents would not be forgotten.

Rivers of lava have continued flowing down the mountainside of the island, reports the Guardian. But the speed has slowed considerably, Miguel Ángel Morcuende, head of the Canary Islands Volcanic Emergency Plan, told the news outlet.

"I don't dare to tell you when it's going to get there, nor do I dare to make a forecast," Morcuende told reporters, according to the Guardian.

The Canary Islands Volcanology Institute posted some positive news to Twitter on Saturday.

"In the last few hours, the amplitude of the volcanic tremor has decreased notably in all the stations of the Canary Islands Seismic Network in La Palma," it said.

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