A volcano erupted on the Spanish Canary Island of La Palma on Sunday, sending fountains of lava and a plume of smoke and ash into the air from the Cumbre Vieja national park in the south of the island. Authorities have already begun evacuating some residents and farm animals in surrounding villages.
The eruption took place on a wooded slope in the Cabeza de Vaca area of La Palma at 3.15pm, according to the islands’ government.
Immediately after the eruption, the municipality urged residents in a statement to “exercise extreme caution”, including staying far away from the area and off local roads.
Soldiers have been deployed to help the population of nearby villages travel to one of five centres to be evacuated.
The eruption on Sunday occurred in an uninhabited mountainous area, sparking small forest fires.
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Stavros Meletlidis, a doctor of volcanology at the Spanish Geographical Institute, said the eruption had opened up five fissures in the hillside and that he could not be sure how long the eruption would last.
“We have to measure the lava every day and that will help us to work it out.”
Spanish television (TVE) showed fountains of lava shooting into the sky and plumes of smoke could be seen from across the island.
Canary Islands President Angel Victor Torres told TVE that no injuries had been reported so far.
More than 11 million cubic metres (388 million cubic feet)of magma have seeped into Cumbre Vieja in recent days, swelling the peak by around 6 centimetres, the Volcanic Institute of the Canaries said on Thursday.
This is the first time the volcano has erupted since 1971.
One man was killed as he was taking photographs near the lava flows, but no property was damaged.
Locals on the island are no strangers to warnings of eruptions.
Risk levels run similar to a traffic light system from green, yellow, orange, and red.
Authorities issued a threat level of yellow on Monday, requiring residents in at-risk zones to prepare for evacuation.
They were also asked to report any sightings of gases, ash, changes in water levels or small tremors to the island’s emergency services.