Volcanic ash halts flights on Canary island

Airlines scrapped all 38 flights as ash spewed from the Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma

Planes were grounded on La Palma, one of Spain's Canary Islands, for the second straight day on Sunday because of ash from a volcano that began erupting a month ago.

Airlines scrapped all 38 flights scheduled for Sunday, most of them to and from other islands in the Atlantic archipelago off Morocco, an airport spokesman said.

Only four of the 34 flights scheduled for Saturday went ahead.

Local airline Binter said it would "restart activity as soon as possible and as long as conditions allow flights to resume safely".

The Cumbre Vieja volcano, 15 kilometres west of the airport, erupted on September 19, spewing out rivers of lava that have slowly crept towards the sea.

So far no one has been killed by the continuous lava flows, but the molten rock has covered 750 hectares and destroyed 1,800 buildings, including hundreds of homes, the EU's Copernicus disaster monitoring programme says.

About 7,000 people have been moved from their homes on the island, which has a population of about 85,000 people.

The eruption has covered a large area with volcanic ash and has been accompanied by dozens of minor earthquakes on most days.

La Palma airport has had to close twice since the eruption began and airlines have sporadically had to cancel flights.

The head of the Canary Islands government, Angel Victor Torres, said on Sunday that scientists monitoring the eruption have seen no indications that it is abating.

"We are at the mercy of the volcano," Mr Torres said. "It's the only one who can decide when this ends."

The Spanish government and the government of the Canary Islands have so far set aside €300 million ($348m) for rebuilding on the island, which exists mainly from tourism and banana plantations.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has pledged to "spend whatever money is needed to reconstruct this marvellous island".

"We will be there until we have rebuilt 100 per cent of everything which this volcano has destroyed," Mr Sanchez told La Sexta TV on Thursday.

It is the island's third volcanic eruption in a century, with the last one in 1971.

Updated: October 17th 2021, 8:12 PM
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