The lava from the La Palma volcano has again contacted the sea this Monday at 12.00 local time, and has led the authorities to decree the confinement of some 3,000 people in the municipality of Tazacorte (in the west of the island) to avoid contact with fumes. The new lava delta that is forming is located in the area known as El Perdido, about three kilometers south of Puerto de Tazacorte and just under two kilometers north of the one that began to form on September 28.
This language that has reached the sea has been in recent days the one that has received the most contribution from the eruptive center, especially through the lavage 4. The flow over previous languages has prevented it from cooling down, which has made possible its sustained progress, also benefited by an increase in the flow from the eruptive center due to the successive overflows that have occurred in the cone. The sudden contact with the ocean has meant “another new surprise for this volcano,” as explained by the technical director of the Canary Islands Volcanic Emergency Plan (Pevolca), Miguel Ángel Morcuende.
The volcano, at the same time, continues to feed the oldest fajana, located to the south, although it does so through lava tubes, and has conquered another seven hectares of land in the last day, which increases the total area to 1,068 hectares . In this advance, it has destroyed 1,481 properties, according to data from the Cadastre. Of these constructions, 1,193 correspond to residential use.
When a tongue of lava, around 1,000 degrees in temperature, reaches the sea, just over 20 degrees, there is an explosion of water vapor that generates a dense black cloud. This is what can be seen at this time with the naked eye from much of the Aridane Valley. Lava, with its extreme heat, causes this plume, but also a chemical reaction, mainly involving chlorine, which can irritate the skin, eyes and respiratory tract.
Together, there are four main dangers associated with lava flowing into the ocean, according to the United States Geological Survey: the sudden collapse of the land and cliffs of the coastline, the explosions triggered by this collapse, the waves of boiling water that are generated in the environment and, finally, the column of toxic steam with hydrochloric acid and small particles of volcanic crystals.
For this reason, Pevolca has decided to confine the urban area of Tazacorte (where some 2,500 people reside), in addition to the towns of San Borondón (confined for the third time since the eruption began), and part of the scattered population of El Cardón.
Miguel Ángel Morcuende has warned in this regard that the air quality in the east of La Palma will continue to make aeronautical operations impossible for the next 48 hours. It also recommends the use of FFP2 masks and inadvisable the practice of outdoor activities in the municipalities of Santa Cruz de La Palma and Breña Alta and Breña Baja (in the east of the island).
The emission of sulfur dioxide from the plume has fallen drastically in this last day to a range of between 900 and 1,300 tons per day. The scientific spokesperson for Pevolca, Carmen López, has lowered, however, the possibility that this very low figure could lead to an effective loss of energy from the eruption, and has called for the next few days to check if the data is maintained. The emission of this gas constitutes one of the most reliable thermometers to know the intensity of the eruption.
The volcanic tremor (the sound footprint that causes magma and gases to rise to the surface) is also studied to determine the health of the volcano. This remains at “low levels”, according to López, as does seismicity, after the rebound experienced last week.
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