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Did the Canary Island volcanic eruption damage homes? Are people being evacuated from La Palma?

The eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano on the Canarian Island of La Palma has produced dramatic images, but early warning allowed for a safe evacuation.

Lava and smoke rise following the eruption of a volcano in the Cumbre Vieja national park at El Paso, on the Canary Island of La Palma, September 19, 2021.
Borja SuarezReuters

A volcano on the remote Spanish Island of La Palma has destroyed dozens of homes as the lava continues its relentless march down hillsides and into towns. The last time the Cumbre Vieja volcano erupted was 1971 but after more than 22,000 tremors were felt this week a new eruption was inevitable.

Due to scientific analysis, the population was prepared for evacuation with the help of the Guardia Civil, Spain's national guard. So far 5,000 people have been evacuated.

Did the Canary Island volcanic eruption damage homes? Are people being evacuated from La Palma?

What has happened?

The eruption began at 3.15pm local time on Sunday 19 September, with smoke and rock being spewed forth from the maw of the volcano. Five fissures in the rock face split open with lava inside, dribbling its way down the hillside.

Video footage has showed the dramatic images; a molten red hillside against the twilight. Lava engulfing homes. Smoke billowing.

Earthquakes have continued through the day. So far, there have been 15 quakes, with the latest at 9pm local time. None has been more than a 3 on the Richter scale but they have contributed to the eruption and subsequent lava flows.

Has anyone been killed?

The forewarning has allowed emergency services to evacuate everyone in immediate danger. That it not to say the disaster has no victims. Houses and property have been destroyed in the wake of the lava

Canary Islands president, Angel Victor Torres, told a press conference on Sunday night that 5,000 people had been evacuated and no injuries had been reported so far.

“It is not foreseeable that anyone else will have to be evacuated. The lava is moving towards the coast and the damage will be material. According to experts there are about 17-20 million cubic meters of lava,” he said.

Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, arrived in the Canary Islands on Sunday night to coordinate efforts to tackle the eruption.

"We have all the troops, the citizens can be calm. Their safety is guaranteed."

The Spanish King has also spoken with Torres.

What will the repercussions be?

There are fears that a big eruption could lead to a tsunami, as a 2001 research paper claimed could happen in the worst case scenario. However, that opinion has been challenged by recent events. Dave Petley, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, specializing in landslides, says.

“La Palma has undergone a previous flank collapse event, and there have been similar collapses elsewhere in the Canary Islands. Interestingly, none of these appear to have generated widespread tsunami deposits around the Atlantic basin."