The National Geographic Institute (IGN) has confirmed this Friday afternoon that a new mouth of the La Palma volcano has been opened in the southeast area of the slope of the cone. “For now it is degassing and the expulsion of lava material has not been seen,” Rubén López, an IGN volcanologist, informed this newspaper. The crisis committee sends a message of reassurance. “It falls within the normal process of the eruption of the volcano”, have pointed out sources from the Volcanological Institute of the Canary Islands (Involcan).
Scientists had detected, also this Friday, a reduction in explosiveness and an increase in the emission of lava. This means that the streams sprout with more force from the volcanic cone, cause variations in their morphology and move in an unexpected way, as explained by Rubén Fernández, technical director of Pevolca (Canary Islands Volcanic Emergency Plan). “The flows do not respect the dynamics of a fluid: its movement is more difficult to evaluate.”
The bad news derived from this greater contribution of magma is that of the two languages that circulate further north, and that have focused the concerns of Pevolca this last week, a third, smaller, has been broken off, which experts have called a “finger of lava” and that, as explained by Fernández, “has taken the direction of La Laguna”, the Los Llanos de Aridane neighborhood that had to be evicted in three different operations throughout this week due to the proximity of the lava . The perspectives, in any case, are not entirely pessimistic, explains the technical director of Pevolca. “The forecasts we are working on are that this finger […] do not run any further to the northwest and do not affect ”the locality. No new evictions are planned, at least in the short term.
Since late Thursday afternoon, the volcano has spewed a lot of lava and at high speed. “It has reached 250 meters per hour, although now it has slowed down to 20 or 30, according to what the spokesmen of the Military Emergency Unit have explained to us,” said Fernández.
Since it began to flow on September 19, the magma map has become more intricate. There is a first wash, which the Pevolca qualifies as primitive. Until Thursday it had stopped, but the greatest contribution in recent hours has reactivated it, as confirmed by thermal cameras. This is the language that collided with the Todoque mountain during the first week after the eruption and turned south, advanced towards the sea and ended up forming a lava delta that now measures about 34 hectares and whose growth could be reactivated, given the new circumstances.
As the days went by, almost at the end of its way to the coast, another arm separated from this first wash, which began to run in parallel a little further south. Its magma resumed its advance and destroyed banana plantations and has stopped its way about 100 meters from the sea.
Over this original stream now runs another that also moves in parallel, that is, in a west-northwest direction. This is the one that stalks the neighborhood of La Laguna. This language, in turn, has been divided into two appendices: a first one that until Wednesday had “high intensity and a lot of travel” and that on Wednesday struck down the nerve centers of La Laguna, such as a supermarket of the Spar chain. And the second, to the northwest, which was the one that went through The Callejón de la Gata polygon continued its downhill path on Thursday afternoon and crossed the La Laguna soccer field. It is from these last two coladas that the new finger that Pevolca has released this Friday has broken off.
The crisis committee counts, in any case, that these two languages, moreover, they end up converging and may also end up in the sea, from which they are separated by approximately one kilometer. The uncertainty is how much damage they can do until they make contact with the water.
This unstoppable journey has already passed a high bill: 696 hectares of territory affected, almost 10% of the total of the island. In this transit, it has destroyed 1,548 buildings worth 186 million, according to EL PAÍS calculations, in addition to threatening or damaging another 86. They are not only homes, schools, businesses, health centers or soccer fields. There are hundreds of vital projects that the figures barely describe: the number of evacuees is around 7,000, of which 321 have needed to stay in the hotel that the Government of the Canary Islands has arranged in the municipality of Fuencaliente.
Seismicity continues to be high, as explained by the spokesperson of the Scientific Committee, María José Blanco, who has warned that tremors above the 4.5 magnitude that Thursday’s earthquake had will continue to be recorded. The volcanologist, however, has clarified that these earthquakes are occurring at great depths, that is, they do not pose risks to the population.
Regarding air quality, Blanco explained that the forecasts are that the thermal inversion (a phenomenon that prevents the air from circulating due to the creation of a plug due to high temperatures) decreases during the day and this hinders the dispersion of particles. To the ash will be added another episode of haze (winds coming from the east that carry dust from the Sahara) and weaker winds. These circumstances could end up affecting the operation of flights at La Palma airport as of Saturday.