The lava flowing from Cumbre Vieja volcano on the Spanish island of La Palma in the Atlantic Ocean causes spectacular natural violence but does not pose a major danger to its residents, says volcanologist Janne Koornneef. “You don‘t have to stand your nose on top of it, but I don’t think it can hurt from about 200 feet away.”
The area beneath the volcano has been evacuated for several days and local authorities have advised residents in the wider area to stay indoors and keep windows closed to prevent them from inhaling gases. It is also now investigating whether chemical reactions have arisen as the lava has reached the water. In the meantime, there has been a favourable, downward wind, causing the smoke to blow towards the ocean.
The lava with a temperature of about 800 degrees has been falling near the town of Tazacorte in the sea since last night. “Due to the high temperature of lava and the temperature difference with the ocean, the lava cools down very quickly,” says Koornneef. “That lava expands and forms a kind of glass.”
Correspondent Rop Zoutberg reports from La Palma:
Zoutberg saw a new island emerge, he said in the CCeit Radio 1 Journal this morning. “The height of this is 50 metres and it doesn‘t stop.”
The moment the lava hits the water, explosions can also occur, says Koornneef. “That depends on how fast the lava flows into the ocean. And chlorine gas can be released due to the reaction with seawater.” Yet there is no major danger to the health of the people in the region, says the volcanologist. “Of course, you shouldn’t get a gust of wind with toxic gases right in your face, but the wind also causes those gases to spread and dilute quickly.”
Due to the rapid evacuations on the island just after the first eruption, there were no deaths or injuries on La Palma. However, a road along the coast that connects the island with different villages is closed, AP writes. The lava flowed over it before it collapsed from a cliff into the ocean.
La Palma airport is also closed due to a huge ash cloud that hangs above the area. Other airports on the Canary Island or major flight routes remain open.