Eruption of a volcano in the Canaries: lava reaches the ocean, experts fear the appearance of a toxic gas

the essential The lava flow from the Cumbre Vieja volcano, which erupted there 000 days, finally reached the ocean on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday, raising fears of the appearance of toxic gases, therefore potentially dangerous for the population remaining there.

Lava from the volcano that erupted ten days ago on the island of La Palma, in the Spanish Canary Islands, finally reached the ocean on Tuesday night 29 to Wednesday 30 September, a phenomenon feared by experts, because it is potentially dangerous. The event was announced shortly after 20 local time by the Canary Islands Volcanological Institute (Involcan). “The lava flow reached the sea at Playa Nueva,” Involcan said on his Twitter account.

Images broadcast by regional television from the Canaries, a Spanish archipelago off the northwestern coast of Africa, showed incandescent lava entering the water amid a large amount of smoke. The Cumbre Vieja volcano erupted on 10 September.

On Tuesday afternoon, the lava, whose speed had varied a lot over the past few days, even to the point of coming to a stop at one point, was still some 800 meters from the sea, which made it impossible to predict when it would reach the ocean.

This encounter between lava, a rock melted at more than 1 degrees Celsius, and seawater that is close to the 20 – 23 degrees Celsius was particularly feared because of the production of toxic gases and harmful particles it could cause, which makes it potentially very dangerous.

To read also: Volcanic eruption in the Canaries: why the arrival of the lava flow in the ocean worries the authorities

For this reason, the regional government of the archipelago has decreed an “exclusion radius of 2 nautical miles” around the place where the lava was expected to arrive.

Little information on the dangerousness of toxic gas

On Monday, residents of several neighborhoods in Tazacorte, a village near the coast, were called to confine themselves to protect themselves against possible toxic gas emissions resulting from the arrival of lava in the ocean.

This decision was taken because of “the possibility that there will be a small shock when the magma enters the sea water and that this small shock causes vapors which can be toxic”, had underlined the technical director of the Plan. Canary Islands Volcanic Emergency (Pevolca), Miguel Ángel Morcuende. Information was not yet available on the quantity of toxic gases produced and on the dangerousness of the situation.

Since it erupted, the volcano has been spewing huge columns of smoke reaching several hundred meters high, but also ash. The state of natural disaster has been declared on this island of 85 000 inhabitants, where the lava flows have in total destroyed 400 buildings – which are not all dwellings – and covered 268 hectares of land, according to the European system of geospatial measurements Copernicus. The lava also destroyed many roads. The president of the Canary Islands region, Angel Victor Torres, estimated last week that the damage would exceed 400 million euros. The eruption did not cause any deaths or injuries, but resulted in the evacuation of more than 6 people who had to abandon their home.

The two previous eruptions in La Palma took place in 1949 and 1971. They had killed a total of three people, two of them by gas inhalation. Experts estimate that this rash could last for several weeks, or even a few months.

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