Science

The lava from the Canary Islands volcano reaches the ocean, fear of toxic gases

Lava from the volcano that erupted ten days ago on the island of La Palma, in the Spanish Canary Islands, finally reached the ocean during the night from Tuesday to Wednesday, a phenomenon feared by experts, as potentially dangerous.

The event was announced shortly after 11:00 pm local time (Tuesday 10:00 pm GMT) by the Instituto Volcanológico de Canarias (Involcan). “The lava flow has reached the sea in Playa Nueva,” Involcan said on his Twitter account.

Images broadcast on regional television in the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago off the northwest coast of Africa, showed glowing lava entering the water amid a large amount of smoke.

The Cumbre Vieja volcano erupted on September 19.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the lava, which had varied in speed for the past few days, even coming to a stop at one point, was still half a mile from the sea, making it impossible to predict when it would hit the ocean.

This encounter between lava, a rock melted at more than 1,000 degrees Celsius, and seawater that hovers around 20-25 degrees Celsius was particularly feared for the production of toxic gases and harmful particles that it could cause, making it potentially very dangerous. .

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

– Toxic gases –

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

This decision was made due to “the possibility of a small shock occurring when the magma enters the sea water and that this small shock causes vapors that can be toxic,” stressed the technical director of the Plan. Canary Volcanic Emergency (Pevolca), Miguel Ángel Morcuende.

Information was not yet available on the amount of toxic gases produced and on the dangerousness of the situation.

“Inhalation or contact with acidic gases and liquids can irritate the skin, eyes and respiratory tract, and can cause difficulty in breathing,” Involcan warned.

The lava hatchling’s entry into the sea came just hours after the government released 10.5 million euros in direct aid to victims of the eruption on Tuesday, in particular to buy homes for people whose home was swallowed by lava.

A state of natural disaster has been declared on this island of 85,000 inhabitants, where lava flows have destroyed a total of 656 buildings – not all are homes – and have covered 268 hectares of land, according to the European Copernicus geospatial measurement system.

The lava also destroyed many roads. The president of the Canary Islands, Ángel Víctor Torres, estimated last week that the damages would exceed 400 million euros and indicated that he had European funds to rebuild.

The eruption did not leave deaths or injuries, but caused the evacuation of more than 6,000 people who had to leave their homes.

Since it erupted, the volcano has been spewing huge plumes of smoke that reach several hundred meters high, but also ash.

The accumulation of these interrupted air traffic, causing on Friday the cancellation of the seven scheduled domestic flights, then the closing of the airport the next day. Although it has officially reopened, flights are still suspended for the time being.

Experts estimate that the rash can last for several weeks or even a few months.

The two previous eruptions on La Palma took place in 1949 and 1971. A total of three had been killed, two of them by gas inhalation.

Like the rest of the islands of the archipelago, La Palma lives mainly from the cultivation of bananas and tourism.

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