A wall of lava up to 40 feet high bore down on a Spanish village Wednesday as islanders scrambled to save what they could before the molten rock swallowed up their homes following a volcanic eruption. The lava still spewing from Sunday's eruption in the Canary Islands off northwest Africa advanced slowly down hillsides to the coast, where Todoque was the last village between the molten rock and the Atlantic Ocean. The lava could take several days to cover the remaining 1.25 miles to the sea, experts said, with the lava advancing at around 400 feet an hour.
Some 1,000 people were evacuated late Tuesday from Todoque, bringing the total number of those evacuated on the island of La Palma to more than 6,800. Authorities say more dangers lie ahead for residents, including more earthquakes, possible new lava flows, toxic gases, volcanic ash, and acid rain. The lava, whose temperature exceeds 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, could cause explosions, trigger landslides, and produce clouds of toxic gas when it hits the ocean, reports the AP.
The volcanic eruption and its aftermath could last for up to 84 days, the Canary Islands Volcanology Institute said, basing its calculation on the length of previous eruptions on the archipelago, which like the latest eruption were followed by heavy lava flows and lasting seismic activity. Tuesday night saw a sharp increase in the number of smaller eruptions that hurled rocks and cinders high into the air, it said.
The rivers of lava have swallowed up around 320 buildings so far, mostly homes in the countryside, and now cover 380 acres. Life on the rest of La Palma, which is roughly 22 miles long and 12 miles wide at its broadest point, has been largely unaffected, with undeterred tourists landing for previously scheduled holidays. Air traffic remained normal. (Read more volcano stories.)