La Palma update: Lava destroys cement factory prompting more lockdowns – Increased seismic and volcanic activity

The new volcano that began erupting on September 19 on La Palma, in Spain’s Canary Islands, showed its destructive power once again over the weekend.

On Saturday, parts of the northern face of the volcano’s cone collapsed, leading the lava to overflow in different directions.

This collapse has led to a “notable rise” in the amount of lava flowing out of the volcano, and mobilized loose blocks of molten rock tens of cubic meters in size.

However, this new collapse did not come as a surprise. They are seen as reconfiguration processes are perfectly normal with Strombolian eruptions like the one on La Palma. As such, it is likely that the cone will see further collapses.

Blocks of molten lava as large as three-story buildings rolled down a hillside on the Spanish island of La Palma while a series of tremors shook the ground on Sunday three weeks after the volcanic eruption.

The blocks of red-hot magma flowed down the side of the Cumbre Vieja volcano were the size of three-story buildings, the Spanish Institute of Geology and Mining said on Sunday.

3 new lava flows

The breakdown of the northern face of the cone created three new lava flows. The most worrying of the three has advanced towards the industrial area of El Callejón de la Gata in the town of Los Llanos de Aridane.

The Volcanology Institute of the Canary Islands (Involcan) reported on Sunday that the lava destroyed the few remaining buildings still standing north of the town’s Todoque neighborhood, which was nearly completely swallowed up by the magma flow between September 30 and October 1.

Meanwhile, families are still evacuating their homes three weeks after the start of the eruption.

The collapse of the northern face of the volcano led to a tense 24 hours, not only because lava from the crater was flowing in different directions, but also because the volcano became more explosive.

Morcuende explained on Sunday that the new lava flows have broken into two branches, both north of the main flow of molten rock.

  • One is currently traveling further north and reached Callejón de la Gata on Sunday. It is moving at a slow speed of around five meters per hour. Authorities are closely watching its advance to see whether action needs to be taken to protect the local population.
  • The second branch has already crossed the LP-213 road and is traveling north to south between Todoque and Puerto Naos in the town of Tazacorte. This branch is expected to advance parallel to the main flow and make its way to the sea by going north of Todoque mountain.

It is important to note that when the main flow reached the Atlantic Ocean at the end of September it went around the south side of the mountain.

Lava flow forms “kipuka” on La Palma:

Lava destroys cement plant; 2,500 people lockdowned

A stream of red-hot lava gushing from the Cumbre Vieja volcano on the Spanish island of La Palma engulfed a cement plant on Monday, raising a thick cloud of smoke and prompting authorities to order people in the area into lockdown.

Local emergency services instructed residents in the towns of El Paso and Los Llanos de Aridane to remain indoors, and to shut their windows, shades and air conditioning devices to avoid inhaling toxic fumes from the burning plant as it was being gradually swallowed by the lava.

“Lock down, if possible, in the most inner rooms,” the emergency service said via its Twitter account. Miguel Angel Morcuende, the technical director of the Canary Islands Volcanic Emergency Plan said the fire at the plant had “produced a very dense smoke that sullied the air.”

Some key numbers

According to Morcuende, the lava has so far affected 600 hectares, an area that grew by 10% overnight. This includes 132 hectares for agriculture, which is one of the island’s main economic drivers.

At its widest point, the river of molten rock stretches 1,520 meters, up from 1,250 meters.

According to the latest data from the European observation system Copernicus, the lava has completely or partially destroyed 1,186 buildings, with 95 more at risk.

Torrents of molten rock have destroyed 1,186 buildings in the three weeks since the eruption, the Canary Islands Volcanic Institute said. About 6,000 people have been evacuated from their homes on La Palma, which has about 83,000 inhabitants.

Eruption noise decreases

The eruption continues with steady lava fountaining from the lower vent and strong degassing and ash emission from the upper vents, but is much less noisy compared to yesterday, to the relief of people living in the area many of whom were terrorized by the extreme noise of the eruption in recent days.

The decrease of sound intensity is however not an indication of the state of the eruption in its deeper underground but mostly reflects how gasses can escape and interact with the ambient air at the very surface.

Seismic activity increases

Meanwhile, seismic activity has increased on La Palma. Between Saturday and Sunday, more than 300 earthquakes rattled the eruption site. More than 30 were reported by the surrounding population.

The largest quake was a M4.3 at 21:46 UTC on Oct. 10th. About 50 took place at a depth of 34 kilometers, while the others occurred around 12 km.

Pevolca’s scientific director María José Blanco warned on Sunday that these earthquakes could lead the volcanic cone to collapse further.

The mean amplitude of volcanic tremor remains stable in a medium range of values ​​with respect to the observations measured during this eruption.

The column height measured at 6:30 UTC is 4,000 m.

Air quality, however, remained unaffected on Sunday by the increased activity, meaning the two airports on the nearby island of Tenerife were able to remain open. But the wind direction and disposition of the plume of smoke coming from the volcano are expected to change from Monday. “We can’t rule out that this will affect the operations of the airports in Tenerife,” said Blanco. [El Pais]