Spanish officials fear volcanic eruption on La Palma

Published : September 17, 2021 16:18 IST

Experts said the volcanic chain has been growing in height due to magma buildup. Photo: imago images

The island of La Palma in the Canaries was hit by an "earthquake swarm," with officials warning magma is building up under the Cumbre Vieja volcanic chain.

Thousands of small earthquakes have hit the Canary island of La Palma in recent days while growing stronger and moving closer to the surface, according to the regional government. The Spanish island is the home of the Teneguia volcano in the Cumbre Vieja national park.

A team of volcanologists warned that an eruption could be possible in the coming days, according to a report in the El Pais daily on September 16. The team noted that magma was seeping into the volcanic chain, raising its peak by some 6 centimeters (2.4 inches).

"What's most likely is that the magma has found a way toward the surface and it is very likely that it will end up reaching it," said Luca D'Auria, the head of the Volcano Monitoring Department at the Canary Islands Volcano Institute (Involcan).

Locals told to prepare emergency bags

The "earthquake swarm" is also expected to escalate, according to officials. However, volcanic experts said there were no clear signs of an imminent eruption. "There still has not been a large earthquake that opens a path for the magma," said Maria Jose Blanco, the head of the National Geographic Institute (IGN) in the Canary Islands.

The government has already raised the eruption alert level and instructed people in the area to prepare light luggage with their mobile phones, important documents and any necessary medication in case of evacuation.

The island of La Palma has around 83,000 residents and is not a popular tourist destination. Its Teneguia volcano last erupted in 1971, the last surface eruption to happen on Spanish soil. Ten years ago, a series of similar but less powerful tremors hit the nearby island of El Hierro, culminating with an underwater volcanic eruption.

dj/wd (Reuters, dpa, AFP)