Lava continued to flow slowly from a volcano that erupted in Spain's Canary Islands off northwest Africa, but the head of the regional government said Monday he expects no injuries to people in the area after some 5,000 were evacuated. The AP reports that lava was flowing on the island of La Palma toward the sea, moving at 2,300 feet per hour, according to the Canary Islands Volcanology Institute. The lava was moving in two streams through a mostly unpopulated area, Canary Islands government chief Angel Victor Torres told SER radio. Around 100 houses were destroyed, private Spanish news agency Europa Press reported.
The volcano erupted Sunday after a weeklong buildup of seismic activity that was closely monitored by authorities. The Canary Islands Volcanology Institute reported the initial eruption shortly after 3pm local time near the southern end of the island, which saw its last eruption in 1971. The eruption opened two fissures, about 650 feet apart. Officials said the lava streams would likely merge before reaching the sea. The lava crept into the town of Los Llanos de Aridane, which lies close to the volcano. Town Mayor Noelia Garcia said people had been evacuated from houses all the way down to the shoreline.
Most of those evacuated found family or friends to take them in; the rest were in shelters, officials said, adding that no further evacuations were expected. Mariano Hernandez, the head of the Cabildo de La Palma, described the scene in the area affected by the lava as "bleak." He said a wall of lava 20 feet high "is consuming houses, infrastructure, crops in its path to the coast," state news agency Efe reported. The Military Emergencies Unit is increasing its deployment on La Palma to 180 soldiers and 57 vehicles, backed up with three water-dropping aircraft due to arrive later Monday. Experts said the eruption could last for weeks, or even months.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez was due to visit the affected area Monday after canceling his trip to New York to attend the UN General Assembly. "We're not expecting any other eruption," Torres said, adding that air traffic in the area wasn't affected. But, he added, "there will be considerable material damage. We hope there won't be any personal injuries." "The lava probably won't take any lives, but it will destroy everything it encounters," the scientific coordinator at the Canary Islands Volcanology Institute told SER.
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