Moon landing? No, the perilous work of scientists 'at the mercy' of La Palma's volcano

·2 min read
Scientists monitor the evolution of a new lava flow, following the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano - AFP
Scientists monitor the evolution of a new lava flow, following the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano - AFP

There is no sign that the volcanic eruption on the Spanish island of La Palma is coming to an end even four weeks after it began, officials have admitted.

The volcano has so far destroyed more than 1,800 buildings, mostly homes, with 7,000 people forced to flee, and the Canary Island's 85,000 residents have to endure dozens of minor earthquakes most days. On Sunday alone, there were more than 40 seismic movements, the largest of which measured 4.3, according to the Spanish National Geographical Institute.

Angel Victor Torres, the president of the Canary Islands, said scientists monitoring the eruption that began Sept 19 had seen no indications that it was abating, as rivers of lava continue flowing slowly towards the sea. The eruption has covered a wide area with volcanic ash and the ash plume is several miles high.

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

The work is dangerous and scientists must wear very heavy protection - Luismi Ortiz
The work is dangerous and scientists must wear very heavy protection - Luismi Ortiz
A man looks on as smoke rises miles into the sky from the Cumbre Vieja volcano - Reuters
A man looks on as smoke rises miles into the sky from the Cumbre Vieja volcano - Reuters

Airlines have sporadically cancelled flights to the islands, including 56 over Saturday and Sunday, due to the ash.

The latest satellite imagery showed the molten rock has covered 754 hectares (almost 1,900 acres), most of it countryside and farm land. Almost 37 miles of roads have also been ruined.

A member of the Spanish Ground Forces wearing a protective suit walks in a street covered in ashes in Las Manchas - AFP
A member of the Spanish Ground Forces wearing a protective suit walks in a street covered in ashes in Las Manchas - AFP

The island's economy is heavily dependent on tourism and banana plantations. The government has pledged millions of euros to help rebuild damaged infrastructure.

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