After 50 years, Cumbre Vieja volcano erupted again

The Cumbre Vieja volcano had not erupted since 1971. It did so after a week of seismic activity that worried the government and the population. The lava spill forced the evacuation of more than 5,000 people living on the slopes of the volcano. The eruption destroyed more than 100 houses that will not be able to recover.

cumbre Vieja volcano
An eruptive mouth expels lava and pyroclasts in the Los Llanos area on Monday.Kike Rincón / Europa Press/El País
The Cumbre Vieja volcano erupted again

The evacuees whose homes are still standing will have to wait for further developments. Most of them are afraid of new eruptions and the dreaded lava flows.

The Cumbre Vieja volcano erupted on September 19, 2021 after 50 years of being dormant. Although the authorities in Las Palmas do not foresee new eruptions for the moment, the state of alert remains in place.

According to experts, the volcano would have between 17 and 20 million cubic meters of lava in its interior. A pyroclastic committee is advising the authorities. They set an exclusion radius of 2 kilometers around the summit.

This exclusion zone also includes lava rivers moving towards the sea. The intention is also to avoid contact with pyroclasts and exposure to noxious gases. The safety of the villagers is currently the government’s main concern.

For its part, the Merchant Marine took the decision to restrict navigation in the areas where the lava will make contact with the sea. This measure will last until all the lava melts into the water.

Consequences of the eruption

One of the most damaged towns is El Paso, whose mayor reported that the destruction was total. Because of this eruption, even the president of the Spanish government, Pedro Sánchez, postponed a planned trip abroad.

slope of the Cumbre Vieja volcano
Slope of the Cumbre Vieja volcano/Image: AFP/Page 12

Monitoring of the volcano’s seismic activities was put on alert a week ago. On September 18, the Institute of Volcanology of the Canary Islands recorded thousands of earthquakes of lesser intensity. The strongest ones reached 4 on the Richter scale.

Added to these earthquakes was a rise of about 10 centimeters in the ground in the area. There was also the movement of billions of magmas inside the summit of the volcano.

The vigilance paid off. At the time of the eruption at 15:00 local time, the villagers had already evacuated. Also 200 security forces were flown to the area by helicopter to search for and organize the people who might still be there.

The Canary Islands are volcanic in origin. The last eruption occurred 50 years ago, in 1971. In 2011, there was an eruption on the island of El Hierro, but it did not affect people because it was underwater.

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