LOS LLANOS DE ARIDANE, Canary Islands >> A volcano on the Spanish island of La Palma that has been erupting for six weeks spewed greater quantities of ash from its main mouth today, a day after producing its strongest earthquake to date.
Lava flows descending toward the Atlantic Ocean from a volcanic ridge have covered 970 hectares (2,400 acres) of land since the eruption began on Sept. 19, data from the European Union’s satellite monitoring service, showed. On the way down the slope, the molten rock has destroyed more than 2,000 buildings and forced the evacuation of over 7,000 people.
But authorities in the Canary Islands, of which La Palma is part, have reported no injuries caused by contact with lava or from inhaling the toxic gases that often accompany the volcanic activity.
Experts said that predicting when the the eruption will end is difficult because lava, ash and gases emerging to the surface are a reflection of complex geological activity happening deep down the earth.
In a sign the Cumbre Vieja volcano’s activity is still strong, the strongest earthquake since the start of the eruption shook La Palma early Saturday. The Spanish Geographic Institute, or IGN, said the magnitude 5 quake was felt not just on La Palma, but also in La Gomera, a neighboring island on the western end of the Canary Islands archipelago.
IGN said the ash column towering above the volcano reached an altitude of 4.5 kilometers (15,000 feet) today before heavier wind scattered it. Many nearby towns and a telescope base further north that sits on a mountain at 2,400 meters above sea level (7,800 feet) were covered in a thick layer of ash.
The eruption has also turned the island into a tourist attraction, especially as many Spaniards prepared to mark All Saints Day, a Catholic festivity that honors the dead, on Monday.
Local authorities said some 10,000 visitors were expected over the long weekend and 90% of the accommodations on La Palma were fully booked. A shuttle bus service for tourists wanting a glimpse of the volcano was established to keep private cars off the main roads so emergency services could work undisturbed.