Hundreds of people on La Palma in Spain’s Canary Islands awoke on Wednesday fearing for their homes and property after a new lava stream from an erupting volcano threatened to engulf another neighbourhood on its way toward the Atlantic Ocean.
Island authorities ordered the evacuation of around 800 people from a section of the coastal town of Los Llanos de Aridane on Tuesday after the lava took a new course and put their homes in its probable path of destruction.
Around 6,000 people were immediately removed from the area in the hours after the initial Sept. 19 volcanic eruption when their homes and farms were directly below the path of the volcano’s initial lava stream.
No new mass evacuations had been necessary in the following three weeks. But on Tuesday, volcano scientists advising authorities found that a new lava flow to the north of the main river of molten rock had branched off and was heading toward an inhabited area outside what had previously been the evacuation zone.
“A part of the neighbourhood had already been evacuated, but given the evolution of the lava stream it was deemed necessary to clear this specific zone,” Los Llano de Aridane Mayor Maria Garcia told Spanish state broadcaster TVE.
Residents of the La Laguna neighbourhood had a few hours to gather up their most precious belongings and leave. Volunteers helped staff at a school in the neighbourhood salvage educational materials, while others loaded up cars and trucks with furniture.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez travelled to the island on Wednesday, his fourth visit since the initial eruption.
“Unfortunately, the news we have from the scientific committee is that the volcano’s activity is not decreasing, so a reduction in its activity is not foreseeable in the coming days,” Sanchez said. “I know it is tough after so many days and nights of suffering, but I ask you to remain patient, because we cannot do anything until the volcano stops.”
Sanchez’s government has pledged $308 million Cdn to help rebuild homes, farms and businesses in the affected area.
WATCH | Underwater video shows lava from La Palma volcano:
La Palma is part of Spain’s Canary Islands, an Atlantic Ocean archipelago off northwest Africa whose economy depends on the cultivation of the Canary plantain and tourism.
Lava has destroyed over 1,400 buildings, including homes, farms and other structures, and covered 656 hectares, including 90 hectares dedicated to the growth of plantains. No lives have been lost.