A new eruption has begun at Cumbre Vieja volcano on the island of La Palma, Canary Islands around 14:12 UTC on September 19, 2021. The Alert Level has been raised from Yellow to Red. This is the first eruption at the volcano since 1971 (VEI 2).
The eruption follows an intense seismic swarm at shallow depths which started on September 11. More than 25 000 quakes were registered to September 19.1
Seismicity further increased over the past few hours, with intense surface seismicity between 0 and 6 km (0 - 3.7 miles) and numerous earthquakes felt by the population, IGN said in an update released 12:00 UTC today.2
The accumulated maximum vertical deformation has increased to around 15 cm (5.9 inches) in the area close to the current seismicity and its distribution is still compatible with a center of pressure in this area.
Image credit: INVOLCAN
Initial reports mention a fissure opened on the western flank of the volcano, producing small lava fountains and flows, and burning forests and farmland.3
Evacuation of the area where the eruption is taking place is in progress.
Just before the eruption, authorities started evacuating farm animals and people with mobility issues from the area where most earthquakes took place.
ACABA DE COMENZAR LA ERUPCIÓN EN LA PALMA. ESTAS IMÁGENES HAN SIDO GRABADAS POR PERSONAL DE INVOLCAN. pic.twitter.com/CjdR7ZnKzh— INVOLCAN (@involcan) September 19, 2021
Ahora mismo en la Palma pic.twitter.com/ecCZaDLuaY— Mary Arellano Moreno (@mary_aam) September 19, 2021
As the lava flows begun to descend down the slope, the Civil Guard announced that up to 10 000 people will be evacuated from municipalities of El Paso, Los Llanos de Aridane, Fuencaliente, and Tazacorte.
The second fissure opened at 15:33 UTC, about 100 m (330 feet) above the first one.
Current projections of the lava flows predict they are likely to run through an area near the settlement of Montaña Rajada, following a ravine.3
The main concerns are that lava might reach inhabited areas such as La Laguna, in Los Llanos de Aridane.
"The problem is further down, in the Los Campitos area. The lava is advancing slowly. People can be evacuated with relative ease," the mayor of El Paso, Sergio Rodríguez, said.
Lava flows have already destroyed several homes in the municipality of El Paso.
It crossed the Tacande highway around 16:30 UTC.
"The recent volcanic reactivation in La Palma has once again sparked the debate on the stability of the west flank of the island, raising concerns in society," said Luis González de Vallejo, Director of the Geological Risks at INVOLCAN.4
Although the hypothesis of a possibility of a major collapse of the west side of the Cumbre Vieja and a megatsunami it could generate, has been rebutted and later discarded by numerous researchers, some media continue to talk about this catastrophic event, Vellejo added.
"For the Cumbre Vieja's flank to meet conditions close to instability, there would have to be an exceptionally high-magnitude earthquake coupled with large-magnitude volcanic eruption... or for the current volcano to grow at least another 1 000 m (3 280 feet). To reach this height, more than 40 000 years would have to go by, if we take the average growth rate of the island over the past 1 million years."
"The probability of an eruption with a high explosive rate at the same time as a large earthquake is extremely remote, according to the geological record of such events on the island. Therefore, the volcano is stable, and would remain stable even under the effects of eruptions similar to those that occurred over the last tens of thousands of years."
The 47-km-long (29 miles) wedge-shaped island of La Palma, the NW-most of the Canary Islands, is composed of two large volcanic centers. The older northern one is cut by the massive steep-walled Caldera Taburiente, one of several massive collapse scarps produced by edifice failure to the SW.
The younger Cumbre Vieja, the southern volcano, is one of the most active in the Canaries.
The elongated volcano dates back to about 125 000 years ago and is oriented N-S. Eruptions during the past 7 000 years have originated from the abundant cinder cones and craters along the axis of Cumbre Vieja, producing fissure-fed lava flows that descend steeply to the sea.
Historical eruptions at La Palma, recorded since the 15th century, have produced mild explosive activity and lava flows that damaged populated areas.
The southern tip of the island is mantled by a broad lava field produced during the 1677-1678 eruption. Lava flows also reached the sea in 1585, 1646, 1712, 1949, and 1971.5
1 Intense earthquake swarm continues at Cumbre Vieja, deformation reaches 15 cm (5.9 inches) -- La Palma, Canary Islands - The Watchers
2 Information update on volcanic activity in the south of the island of La Palma. - 09-19-2021 12:00 UTC - IGN
3 La Palma, Canary Islands: new eruption - La Cumbre Vieja volcano erupts for first time since 1971! - VolcanoDiscovery
4 INVOLCAN - FB
5 La Palma - Geological summary - GVP
Featured image credit: 7 Noticias
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