Lava on La Palma Reaches Ocean, Creates Pyramid

Authorities warn of possible toxic gaes
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2021 2:35 PM CDT
New Worry as Lava Hits Ocean: 'Chloride Clouds'
Lava from a volcano on the Canary Island of La Palma, Spain reaches the ocean, Wednesday Sept. 29, 2021.   (AP Photo/Saul Santos)

It may be of little solace to La Palma residents whose homes and livelihoods have been destroyed by the ongoing volcanic eruption, but their island is getting bigger. Lava from an eruption that began on the Spanish island 10 days ago has now reached the Atlantic Ocean, creating a pyramid of black rock. "It is now generating a structure that we call a 'lava delta' that is ... extending the island to the west," Juan-Tomas Vazquez, a marine geologist monitoring the situation from a research vessel, tells Reuters. The island's last eruption, 50 years ago, increased its land area by around 5%.

The lava reached the ocean just before midnight Tuesday in what authorities described as a "very dangerous moment," reports the New York Times. Three villages in the area were locked down as authorities warned of possible explosions and clouds of toxic gas caused by the lava reaching cold water. Volcanologist Arnau Folch at Spain’s National Research Council says the main concern now is chloride clouds. "It is quite a complex situation, with many hazards occurring at the same time," he says.

The eruption has destroyed more than 500 homes and forced the evacuation of around 6,000 of the island's 85,000 residents. Previous eruptions in the Canary Islands region have lasted for months, and authorities don't know how long this one, which has already released more than 50 million cubic meters of lava, will last. "We don’t know when this will be over," Stavros Meletlidis of Spain’s National Geographic Institute told state broadcaster TVE. "Volcanoes are not friends of statistics." (The lava has now destroyed a "miracle home" that initially escaped the flow.)

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