An evacuation is ongoing on the Canary Island of La Palma, following a devastating volcanic eruption on Sunday. The eruption has sent lava rolling over the island, and the superheated rock has destroyed over a hundred homes as authorities have rushed to save lives.
No injuries have been reported as of the time of this writing, owing to the swift evacuation plan implemented by the local government. Ángel Víctor Torres, the head of the Canary Islands’ government, told reporters that the lava flow has been primarily confined to two streams. So far, luckily, the streams have mainly been concentrated in a primarily unpopulated region of La Palma.
Torres told reporters that the government doesn’t expect a second eruption, but that the current lava flow is expected to cause considerable loss of property on the island. Residents are understandably devastated at the loss of their homes, but reports are focusing on the importance of all the lives saved by the evacuation efforts.
The situation presents a serious issue for the island’s wildlife and ecology. The eruption is still ongoing, and could last for weeks, or even longer. The magma flowing up from under the earth is heating the island up dramatically, causing wildfires wherever the lava runs into foliage and plant life. This, in turn, is causing issues for local wildlife.
The Spanish military has sent 180 soldiers and nearly 60 vehicles to the island to aid in the lava containment effort, while aircraft equipped with tanks of water to drop on wildfires have been deployed to help slow down the blazes.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez paid a visit to the region on Monday, canceling a planned diplomatic trip to the UN general assembly in New York.
The eruption, which began around 3 PM on Sunday, is the first on the island of La Palma since 1971. The eruption follows weeks of earthquakes and unstable seismic activity. This seismic activity gave the local government ample time to respond to the prospect of an eruption, which doubtlessly saved countless lives on the island.
Historically, the most devastating volcanic eruptions are those that occur out of nowhere and impact densely populated regions. Thankfully, neither of these were the case with the La Palma eruption, meaning that the containment efforts can be put into place without fearing that they will endanger major population centers. The eruption could continue for weeks, though, meaning that the residents of La Palma could be displaced for quite some time.