Wednesday, October 20

Ash rain exacerbates the La Palma volcano crisis

The erupting volcano on La Palma has been in an explosive phase for more than two days. It is not more dangerous, but it expels more ashes into the atmosphere, as explained by the Volcanological Institute of the Canary Islands. On the mountain, over the mouth, you can see a huge column of black microparticle smoke that is flying over every corner of the island, aggravating the crisis: it forces the relocation of centers for displaced people, poses a respiratory risk, can damage crops and disrupt transportation. air and road.

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The ashes are “very fine fragments that can cause injuries to the respiratory tract, eyes and open wounds”, describes the Canary Islands General Directorate of Security and Emergencies. Solid microparticles that do not stop settling from the Llanos de Aridane to even Santa Cruz de la Palma at 15 kilometers as the crow flies. “I confirm that in Santa Cruz we already have the sand,” said a neighbor of the city this morning when she arrived for work on the other side of the island. In the early hours, the streets, benches and cars of Los Llanos were covered with soot. It was time to sweep.

The ash does not appear to fall as if it were embers from a forest fire. Each grain is too small. But it shows. First, in the eyes – more if any breeze that projects them rises. Later in the mouth, or in the grinding of the teeth, rather. And finally, as the Security Directorate explained, in the respiratory tract. Any table, balcony or notebook that is cleaned, in a few minutes returns to have a blackish patina. As it builds up, it has that dark dusty look that penetrates almost every crack. The National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanonology of Italy measured in situ this Wednesday an accumulation of three centimeters.

This incessant black rain conditions the lives of the neighbors. The population has been asked to stay under cover, to cover their mouth and nose if they go outside, and to spend as little time as possible outdoors. In any case, do not do sports activities abroad. They have also recalled that this volcanic soot is slippery.

In addition, the palm trees have to be careful to avoid that the ashes accumulate excessively on the flatter surfaces that are susceptible to bending due to the weight or in water pipes that could be clogged. While this phenomenon is detected, they are asked to close doors and windows and place damp towels in the cracks. Those who have domestic animals should avoid being outdoors and for livestock: change the water, on which the ashes fall, and protect them from the air.

The increase in ashes forced the transfer of the Llanos de Aridane displaced persons center from the soccer field to the Canarian wrestling pavilion. “You cannot inhale this all the time,” explained the center managers once they were reinstated. So far there have been no more evacuations since Wednesday.

This “very explosive” phase of the volcano, as described this Thursday by the director of the National Geographic Institute in the Canary Islands, María José Blanco, produces a powerful injection of ash and alarms the population because they arrive in bursts over the constant roar. The cloud has reached 3,500 meters in height, as calculated by Blanco. And the wind moves them.

The flights, attentive to the wind

On the other side of the island and the peaks, on the east side of La Palma, this Thursday the column of smoke was very visible from the airport located in Santa Cruz. The uncertainty of what could happen has made the inter-island airlines decide to paralyze flights to La Palma early in the morning. After about three hours it has been decided to restart the flights between islands.

The ash cloud directly affects aviation. “They are very limiting for any air operation”, sums up a pilot to, who exemplifies this with the phenomenon of airspace closure in 2010 due to volcanic eruptions in Iceland. However, despite the fact that a wind front has rolled towards the East, where the airport is located, the infrastructure has remained operational and attentive to developments. The first flight that was altered this Thursday had to be delayed because a plane had accumulated ash during the night. In reality, “we depend on the wind”, have counted the air traffic controllers.

The Geographical Institute reported in the afternoon that it was placing a red color on the aviation code for Canaria, although the IGN has detailed that this color does not mean more than establishing “an adequate protocol so that air navigation is totally safe”, before the evolution of the expulsion of gases and the ash column of the volcano.

Above ground, road transport is not immune to the effects of ash. As a haze, so associated with the Canary Islands, volcanic soot veils the atmosphere and reduces visibility. Pinta sepia toned air. Emergencies have recommended that, when this phenomenon is detected, especially at dusk, do not use the car and when there is no other option, travel at a maximum of 40 km / h.

In an environment where agriculture has so much weight, this material is an obvious damage to vegetables. Horticultural products must be released one by one from the particles. Similarly, it has been requested that trees and shrubs be shaken to minimize damage.

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