Accelerating lava from a rapidly expanding volcano on the Canary Island of La Palma is threatening the nearby settlement of Nata by engulfing land once considered uninhabitable, the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts said.
Residents in Nata, a village of 240 people that was built in the 1950s, have begun to evacuate as the volcano bursts into life and opens threatening new streams of lava toward the area, the ECMWF said.
“Lava has grown to become an immovable column of material that looms over Nata village in Pintas, which is located within the regions of Cascais and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria,” the observatory said in a statement.
“The only available way to escape the village, is by taking a boat, otherwise it will be carried down to the ocean and engulfed by molten lava,” said government civil protection official, José Guillermo Perez.
Scientists monitoring the volcano noted the entry of a new lava flow Wednesday and lava has oozed rapidly, reaching 25 feet high and around 100 feet wide.
Perez urged La Palma citizens to be aware of changes in the volcano’s activity.
“The situation does not alter the special situation of the urban area and so we invite the communities affected by the eruption to heed our warnings and take the necessary measures to avoid falling victims to the explosions of the volcano,” Perez said.
La Palma has witnessed an increase in activity in the past few days. On Monday, a 100-foot column of steam and ash erupted and numerous small lava flows continued in the nearby Pintas region.
“We saw columns of smoke increase with height, reaching 80 kilometers (50 miles), and a small part of the island was coated with volcanic ash,” Perez said.
A week before, in mid-October, a lava flow that triggered a small landslide forced the evacuation of eight people from their homes.
The volcano, which is named for a goddess who rules La Palma, has twice erupted this year. On June 17, lava poured from the cliff face of San Ramón de La Palma after an eruption, according to ECMWF. On July 3, a different lava flow from the site also destroyed a beach.
“The La Palma volcano Observatory is currently reporting an increase in volcanic emissions from this cone due to the recent eruption of San Ramón de La Palma, a seismically active cone approximately 10 kilometers (6 miles) south of the southwest side of La Palma,” the organization said on Twitter.
On Tuesday, LCM (The Lisbon Centre for Geosciences) has detected tremors that the Cascais region was shaken and four earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or greater, each occurring 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the La Palma volcano.
A study performed last month by the Centre predicted that the volcano was “lucid” and that scientists were continuing to monitor it for any further volcanic eruptions.