Unbearable and hard. This is how Miguel Ángel Morcuende, technical director of the Canary Islands Volcanic Emergency Plan (Pevolca) described Saturday night on the island of La Palma, when the Cumbre Vieja volcano trembled and roared as it has rarely done in the three weeks that it has been spitting out magma, pyroclasts and ash. “It may have been the worst night since the eruption started,” he said. And the situation has not improved in recent hours. During this Sunday, around 120 earthquakes have been located on the island, the highest intensity being one of 4.1 detected around 12 noon in the municipality of Mazo and about 37 kilometers deep.
The La Palma volcano celebrates three weeks with more than 500 hectares destroyed: “It has been a hard, unbearable night”
Despite the noise from the main mouth, the emanations of gases and magmatic materials and the earth tremors, the population of the Aridane Valley is behaving in an “exemplary” manner, with an unusual civility taking into account the dramatic circumstances that occur in area.
This is how Morcuende wanted to highlight it at the press conference given at around 2:00 p.m. this Sunday to inform about the current situation of the eruption. He insisted that the population is behaving in an outstanding manner and once again repeated that precautions must be maintained, especially vulnerable people, in the presence of ashes in the air. Still, the quality of this one is “reasonably good”.
Morcuende recalled that all citizens of the area with a red traffic light must be attentive to any change in the situation and follow the recommendations of the authorities and Civil Protection.
Far from subduing the volcanic activity, this weekend, with the collapse of the cone, the volume of lava has increased while the earth tremors do not stop. For this reason, the training plan has also continued among the residents, with talks in the municipalities of Mazo and Fuencaliente, where first-hand information on the eruptive process has been given, both by the Technical Directorate and by scientists, in addition to advancing in the evacuation plans of the population, if necessary.
What happened this Saturday with the main cone was explained by María José Blanco, director of the National Geographic Institute (IGN) in the Canary Islands and spokesperson for the Scientific Committee. As he has detailed, the morphology of the cone changes repeatedly due to the successive processes of growth and reconfiguration. Thus, he said, a process of destruction of the wall of the lava lake began on Saturday, due to the increase in the volume of it emitted from the emitting center. This caused the exit of large blocks that were dragged by the runoff, going down the northern part of the previous runs, and following trajectories towards the west, within the exclusion zone. If the flow remains the same, Blanco indicated, a change in surface runoff is not expected. This is what has worried the most this Sunday.
One of the streams has come to advance towards the sea at a speed of up to 700 meters per hour in some points, according to Involcan. On its way to the coast, it razed the few remaining buildings to the north of the now-defunct Todoque neighborhood and part of the Callejón de la Gata industrial estate.
One of its arms, or branches, advances at about five meters per hour. “We are monitoring it because it can reach a head of a mini-basin and vary the route of the wash, which would force to take new measures of civil protection”, has detailed Morcuende, opening the door to new evacuations if necessary.
Another language, further to the northwest, “has practically no route, it is slowed down,” he explained.
The technical director of Pevolca also explained that the surface affected by the lava exceeds 525 hectares, which is 33 more than yesterday, with a maximum width of the wash of 1,520 meters, 270 more, after the increase in lava due to the breakage of the cone. Regarding the fajana, he explained, it measures 34 hectares.
The latest data provided by Copernicus show the figure of 1,281 buildings affected (1,186 destroyed and 95 at risk), although without detailing the type of construction. Regarding the area of affected crops, it is estimated at 132 hectares affected. Of these, 70 are banana trees, 33 vineyards and almost eight avocados.
The Navy arrives on the island
This Sunday the island received a visit from the Minister of Defense, Margarita Robles, who praised the work and dedication of the Military Emergency Unit (UME), which she said will stay as long as it takes. But in addition, it has announced the imminent arrival of the Navy. “What we can contribute we are going to do and the Navy will join to bring material – this Monday it will arrive on the island,” he reported.
Robles chaired the Pevolca meeting, led by the Minister of Public Administrations, Justice and Security, Julio Pérez, and conveyed his recognition and gratitude to all the professionals who work in this emergency, while highlighting the commitment of the Armed Forces with the Island, where they will continue with maximum availability and absolute collaboration. This meeting was also attended by the President of the Canary Islands, Ángel Víctor Torres, via telematics.