La Palma volcano eruption could last 12 weeks

Experts warn of dangers including earthquakes, lava flows, toxic gases, volcanic ash and acid rain

The La Palma volcano eruption and its aftermath could last for up to 84 days, experts said on Wednesday.

The Canary Island Volcanology Institute said it based its calculation on the length of previous eruptions on the archipelago, which like the latest eruption were followed by heavy lava flows and lasting seismic activity.

The institute reported that there was a strong increase on Tuesday night in the number of smaller eruptions that hurled rocks and cinders high into the air on the island of La Palma, one of the Canary Islands off north-west Africa.

Authorities say that dangers still lie ahead for residents, including earthquakes, lava flows, toxic gases, volcanic ash and acid rain.

Hundreds of islanders and holidaymakers have already been forced to flee from a series of earthquakes spawned by the La Palma volcano eruption last Sunday. Some 1,000 people were evacuated late on Tuesday from the neighbourhood of Todoque, on the shoreline, bringing the total number of evacuated people to about 6,000.

The promptness of these evacuations has helped prevent any casualties from the eruption, though damage to homes, infrastructure and farmland is significant, officials say.

Powerful rivers of unstoppable lava up to six metres high have also swallowed around 185 buildings, mostly homes in the countryside. They are now heading downhill towards the island’s more densely populated coast and cover 154 hectares, according to the Volcanology Institute.

The meeting of the 1,000°C lava with a body of water could cause explosions and produce clouds of toxic gas.

Emergency services on the island attempted late on Tuesday to divert some of the lava by using front-loaders to clear a path for the molten rock to follow, hoping to steer it away from properties. Officials said they didn’t know if it would work.

The volcano has also been spewing out between 8,000 and 10,500 tonnes of lung-harming sulphur dioxide every day, the Volcanology Institute said.

La Palma volcano eruption — in pictures

Updated: September 22nd 2021, 12:18 PM