Red hot lava from an erupting volcano on the Spanish island of La Palma has reached the Atlantic Ocean, nine days after it started to flow down the mountain, wrecking buildings and destroying crops.
Photographs showed huge clouds of white steam billowing up from the Playa Nueva area as the lava made contact with the water late on Tuesday night, amid concerns of explosions and the release of toxic gases. “The lava flow has reached the sea at Playa Nueva,” the Canary Islands Volcanic Institute (Involcan) said on its Twitter account. The Cumbre Vieja volcano erupted on September 19.
The Canary Islands’ emergency service urged those outdoors to immediately find a safe place to shelter. “When the lava reaches the sea, the lockdown must be strictly observed,” Miguel Angel Morcuende, the director of the Pevolca response committee, said earlier on Tuesday.
Lava from Cumbre Vieja has devoured everything in its path, including nearly 600 houses and 21km (13 miles) of road. The lava now covers 258 hectares (637 acres), of mostly agricultural land, including banana plantations, according to a European Union satellite monitoring agency.
No deaths or serious injuries have been reported so far following the swift evacuation of more than 6,000 people. Three coastal villages were also locked down on Monday ahead of the lava reaching the Atlantic Ocean.
Spain classified La Palma as a disaster zone on Tuesday, a move that will trigger financial support for the island, which is home to 85,000 people and heavily dependent on farming and tourism. The airport has been closed for days amid concern about the risk to aircraft from volcanic ash.
The government announced the first package of 10.5 million euros ($12.3m), which includes about five million euros ($5.8m) to buy houses, with the rest to acquire furniture and essential household goods, government spokeswoman Isabel Rodriguez said.
More aid, including for the rebuilding of public infrastructure, will be sent once the current emergency is over, she added. One resident who was evacuated last week from the village of Tacande de Arriba was delighted to find his house still standing and his pet cats unscathed.
“It’s a good feeling, a fantastic feeling,” said Gert Waegerle, 75, who fled the advancing lava with his five turtles on Friday but had to leave the cats behind. “I am super happy because, in the end, everything turned out fine.”