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Canaries Volcano Erupts Prompting Thousands to Flee; Streams of Lava Destroy Homes

Published: September 20, 2021
TOPSHOT - Mount Cumbre Vieja erupts in El Paso, spewing out columns of smoke, ash and lava as seen from Los Llanos de Aridane on the Canary island of La Palma on September 19, 2021. (Image: DESIREE MARTIN/AFP via Getty Images)

The Cumbre Vieja volcano erupted on Spain’s Canary Islands on Sunday spewing lava, ash and a huge column of smoke following days of increased seismic activity, Reuters reported. 

The eruption forced the evacuation of 5,500 people and destroyed at least 100 houses, authorities said.  

No fatalities or injuries have been reported.

Streams of molten rock are expected to reach the coast sometime in the evening on Monday, potentially triggering more explosions. The volcano itself is expected to remain active for several days.

The eruption hurled molten rock over the sparsely populated area of La Palma and engulfed forests in flame within the immediate vicinity. 

Eva, a 53-year old tourist from Austria told Reuters, “It was horrible. We felt the earthquake, it started in the morning … Then at 3 in the afternoon the lady from our house came and said ‘you have to pack everything and leave quickly.’”

“We’re happy to go home now,” she said at the airport, boarding a flight back home after cutting her trip short.

Reyes Maroto, the Tourism Minister for the area said the eruption was “a wonderful show” which would attract more tourists. His comments were widely criticized by the opposition at a time when many people had just lost their homes. 

Some tourists who witnessed the eruption disagreed with Maruto with one 55-year old social worker from Salzburg telling Reuters that, “We want to leave as fast as possible.”

Approximately 360 tourists were evacuated from a resort in La Palma and were taken to the nearby island of Tenerife by boat early on Monday, ferry operator Fred Olsen said. 

Cumbre Vieja straddles a ridge in the south of La Palma island and has erupted twice in the 20th century, first in 1949 then again in 1971. This eruption is the first in over 50-years.