Dantesque scenes as reactivated activity produces far more fluid lava which is now just 300m from the sea

  • Spanish Government free telephone helpline for anyone affected by the La Palma eruption – 900 222 665
  • Spanish Government insurance compensation consortium –www.consorseguros.es
  • To help, clothes aren’t needed but monetary donations are welcome and can be sent by Bizum (mobile bank apps might need latest update) – use code 03747. Or make an e-transfer to account ES47 2100 9169 0122 0017 9456 quoting reference Donación volcán. More info on this from La Palma Cabildo HERE.

Updated 11pm 27/9: Dantesque scenes tonight as the reactivation is producing much more fluid lava flows which are now just 300m from the sea. No-one is now guessing whether or not it’ll reach the coast tonight but locals are still locked down because of the fear of noxious gases when lava meets water. La Palma airport meanwhile has been given up on: all flights are off and the island is reachable only via ferry to Santa Cruz de la Palma port. Last night was terrible. This one’s horrendous. As many are saying tonight: Ánimo, Isla Bonita.

Updated 8pm, 27/9: And this is activity at 8pm …

Updated 7.30pm, 27/9: It’s back to normal tonight …

Updated 5pm, 27/9: Pevolca committee confirms that today’s behaviour is normal within the context that volcanos have phases of activity within eruptions. The lava stream is now around 800m from the sea, so since last night’s panicked lockdown, it has only covered half the distance to the sea. Nonetheless, people remain confined to their homes in the areas affected in case lava should reach the sea and release noxious gases. Binter for its part has had a hellish day with La Palma airport and it has closed and reopened more than once. The advice to anyone flying within or to/from the Canaries is to check with airlines before departure.

Updated 11.15am, 27/9: And volcanic activity has resumed. Involcan says that since around 11am lava is again being emitted from the main cone and the cloud has returned.

Updated 27 September – Eruption Day 9: And then it went quiet. After a flurry of panicked activity last night, lockdown orders issued because the Todoque lava stream was going to reach the sea … it didn’t. It was slowed down by Todoque montaña, its present state is being monitored by flights over it this morning. Involcan is meanwhile measuring the volcanic tremor which, they say, has virtually disappeared in the last few hours along with any sign of explosive Strombolian activity. It is eerily quiet but this, they advise, is unlikely to be the end of the eruption but rather a new phase: this is indicated by an concomitant reactivation of seismic activity to the south. The difference, in lay terms, appears to be between the rhythmic eruptive drumbeat – volcanic tremor – and earthquakes – seismic activity.

Graphic: Involcan

All Canarian airports are open and operating fully but Aena says that disruption is always possible, especially for La Palma airport and therefore all passengers should check with airlines before leaving home as to the status of their proposed flight.

Updated 11.45pm, 26/9: This is likely to be some night. The lava has now passed Todoque, as we saw earlier it consumed the church that had withstood it thus far. Now, the lava flow is just over 1.5km from the sea, and expected to reach the coast tonight. As a result, Pevolca has ordered the lockdown of the areas of San Borondón, Marina Alta, Marina Baja and La Condesa because of the possibility of noxious gases. People must stay indoors and be attentive to the instructions issued by the authorities. Keep doors and windows closed. There will be further information and clarity tomorrow.

Updated 11.30pm, 26/9: Finally tonight, in case anyone sees it here and not on my twitter, anyone in La Palma within 5km of the emission centre … take precautions tonight against possibility of shattered windows from shockwaves. Tape them up as advised.

Updated 11pm, 26/9: Incredible images tonight, live from Canarian TV …

Updated 9pm, 26/9: In a day of rockfalls, church towers falling, this is the image that shows the active nightmare La Palma is living …  from Involcan, a lava “fountain”.

Updated 6pm, 26/9: It would have been a miracle symbol, but it wasn’t to be. Bomberos had to abandon Todoque, as I posted in the 3pm, 24/9 update, and sadly, the church has now fallen.

Updated 5pm, 26/9: This is like something from a movie about seeking life on another planet! This isn’t a Matt Damon film, though, but scientists, suited up with breathing apparatus and more, taking samples to determine what’s coming out of the volcano that they are so close to.

Updated 4pm, 26/9: Video from Involcan of some eruptive activity around 1.30 this lunchtime. You can clearly see boulders being chucked out like pebbles! Meanwhile, Binter says La Palma airport’s open again, not sure how long it will remain so, and emergency services are letting some people back to their homes. The general impression is of stability within a chaotic evolution … everyone is waiting to see what happens but life continues as and where it can, as near to normal as it can get in these extraordinary scenes.

Photo: Involcan

Updated 3pm, 26/9: Pevolca’s scientific committee has highligted the need to wear protective measures when collecting ash, using FFP2 masks and goggles: Involcan says that there are now receptacles for what’s collected (image left). The committee estimates the rate of sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions into the atmosphere from yesterday’s eruptive process at over 28,000 tons, which they say is relatively high. Gas and ash emissions exceeded 4,000m altitude but air quality generally is classified as “good”. Having said that, ash has already reached other parts of the Canaries, with picon falling as far away as La Palma’s capital, Santa Cruz, and there have been rockfalls from a cliff near the port of Tazacorte midway along the west coast: at present IGN haven’t confirmed a tremor there so the immediate cause is unclear but scientists stress that despite sensationalist social media posts, it’s a rockfall, not the port itself nor indeed Cumbre Vieja that is collapsing!

Updated 26 September – Eruption Day 8: The night has passed without particular incident other than vents merging and the lava flow affecting various roads and areas. This morning more explosive activity has resumed, with a new cluster of earthquakes that indicates further magma intrusion under Cumbre Vieja. Aena says that all Canarian airports are now operating mainly without incident, La Palma reopening around 11am this morning after the ash that had covered the concourse and runway had been cleared (a massive job yesterday), but travellers should check with airlines before departing; the same message has been issued by Enaire too to international visitors. As IGN said earlier when reporting the new earthquake swarm, let’s see what today brings … 

Updated 4pm, 25/9: Staggering drone footage here from 112Canarias flying over the eruption.

Updated 3pm, 25/9: The Pevolca scientific committee says that with the increased activity yesterday and the formation of two further vents in the last 24 hours which have now merged into a single boca, the volcanic cone has broken and left an “enormous stream of lava” heading towards the sea. As we saw with the two new streams last evening, the lava is fast moving, and scientists say that this is because it is more viscous being hotter from greater depth. Volcanologists have stressed that the public should be reassured that this is part of the eruptive process and does not represent any particular new peril or any partiularly odd behaviour which, they assure us, is normal for Strombolian activity.

Updated 1pm, 25/9: There is now a new vent in one of the two original fissures, this one in Montaña Rajada to the west of the original.

Updated 25 September – Eruption Day 7: It’s a week now, and concerns are heightened today by worries about the stability of the eruptive cone. Explosivity reduced last night thanks to the two new vents releasing fast-flowing lava but today those residents newly evacuated have been told they cannot return home to collect their immediate personal possessions until the Pevolca security committee has ascertained the latest situation and the risk level involved. Reassuringly, however, Spain’s national Toxicology Institute has confirmed that there is no current health risk from the ash and gas emissions. As previously stressed, however, anyone cleaning and removing debris needs to protect their eyes and skin.

The situation remains chaotic and evolving, and residents still in their homes in the area are being asked to tape up their windows as one might see in films of wartime air raid preparations in order to prevent them shattering in the event of further blast shockwaves. Air traffic is somewhat disrupted regionally and all travellers, whether regional, national or international, are advised to check with their airlines before leaving home. Fred Olsen, for its part, has increased ferry capacity in order to facilitate transport of essential and emergency services. Meanwhile, all eyes are on that cone. They may be distracted by the flowing lava and shaken by the volcanic shockwaves, but they’re watching that cone all that time in scenes today, courtesy of Involcan, that are reminiscent of Mordor.

Updated 9pm, 24/9: Emergency services say that there are now two new vents though only in one of the original two fissures. These new vents, however, are emitting lava flows at high velocity and causing larger fragments to be thrown considerable distances along with pyroclastic ash flows. The two new streams are clearly visible on this video, and we can just be thankful that the explosivity has reduced this evening thanks to the release of this lava.

Updated 5pm, 24/9:La Gomera airport now closed.

Updated 4.30pm, 24/9: There is considerably more explosive activity now and a further vent has opened since the last update. There is a pretty significant increase in the range of pyroclastic material and intense ash being ejected, and instability on one of the flanks of the volcano due to accumulation of pyroclastic material. As a consequence, under PEVOLCA, the residents of Tajuya and Tacande de Abajo and de Arriba who had been confined to their houses are now being evacuated.

Updated 3pm, 24/9: Explosivity has increased quite a bit this afternoon. Bomberos have been forced to retreat from Todoque because of increased danger and falling piroclastic debris- that barrio is now at the mercy of the volcano. Some mighty explosions have been heard in the last hour, the shockwaves actually visible. Those who haven’t been evacuated in the areas of Tajuya, Tacande de Abajo, and Tacande de Arriba are now confined to their houses by official order. Binter and Iberia have just cancelled all La Palma flights: official advice for anyone coming to or leaving the Canaries is to check with your airlines.

Updated 2.30pm, 24/9: So we know what we’re looking at (when we can see it through the general cloud and haze), from Aemet’s Atmospheric Dynamics expert J.J. González Alemán comes this explanation of the convection above the eruption. As González Alemán explains, the pirocumulus cloud can be distinguished very well from the actual plume of ash (cenizas).

Updated 2pm, 24/9: It’s obvious that people will be inclined to post the more dramatic footage of the scenes coming out of La Palma but the Colegio Oficial Psicología (the professional psychologists guild) has asked the public not to share on social media their photos or videos of properties collapsing. Clearly everyone wants to take part in reporting what’s going on but such scenes, psychologists say, are extremely hard for people to see when it’s their own homes in videos posted by others, and of course social media is such that they then see them shared as well. The mental health professionals ask please don’t do this, and please share the request for those doing it to stop.

Updated 12.30pm, 24/9: Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez has announced emergency relief for anyone who has lost their home (habitual residence specifically) or livelihood in La Palma due to the eruption. In the measures he spoke of, Sánchez also confirmed a Reconstruction Plan for the island. The PM said that the whole of the island of La Palma was going to be declared a Disaster Area which would allow fast aid to arrive to help with immediate needs for accommodation, provision of basic supplies, restoration of communication networks, as well as specific measures for the complete disruption and devastation of swathes of employment.

Updated 24 September- Eruption Day 6: The eruption became considerably more explosive last night, and this morning the authorities have confirmed that presently at least 600 acres in a perimeter of around 16 km have been affected, with the eruptive plume now reaching between 4,500m and 8,000m at different points, an altitude that experts say represents no health risk. On the ground, there are now two active lava flows, the northernmore one at a maximum height of 12m almost stationary while its southern partner, 10m high, continues to advance slowly at around 4-5kmh. Regional and international flights, airports and airspace are operating normally, say Binter, Aena and Enaire, but protocols are established in the event that air traffic becomes affected and everyone is monitoring, watching and waiting, with no guarantee that the lack of disruption will be maintainable and all travellers are now being advised to check with their airlines before leaving home.

While posting, I’ll just add that there are many requests for assistance in La Palma, naturally. But please know that all authorities are now saying they don’t need any more clothes. In fact, they have so many clothes donations they are asking the public not to bring any more. They need food supplies for food boxes for people, and obviously financial donations to official sources are welcome.

Updated 1pm, 23/9: And this is how it’s done. That little figure in the front, in trainers, t-shirt and chinos, talking to the emergency services, is the Queen of Spain. Her husband, the King of Spain no less, stands behind her, and behind him the Prime Minister, both in jeans. No show of finery or pomp and circumstance. Natural and real. I am no royalist as I’ve said before but these people are showing one way in which monarchies can remain real … and in Spain, that’s a pun …

Photo: Ministerio de Interior

Updated 23 Sepember – Eruption Day 5: The stream of lava still hasn’t made it to the sea and some wonder if it will manage to get there or solidify in the area of Todoque which yesterday lived through hell. At present the lava has stopped at a roundabout to one side of which stands the local church, untouched, but the lava is still moving very very slowly, devouring all in its path. Last night saw a further increase of eruptive activity and today the volcanic plume now reaches an altitude of 4.2km. The wind has shifted direction slightly, and is now heading in a more easterly than south-easterly direction, residents in Mazo reporting a light covering of ash and debris on their cars and buildings this morning: if it continues this easterly direction we will get some in Tenerife too, perhaps much later today. Experts say that this ash should be cleaned up as a priority whenever we see it on our property because it is dangerous for people, animals, and practically dangerous for driving too. BUT it should be cleared away with care and without water in case it solidifies: cleaning advice is therefore to wear gloves and goggles, and dispose of it in closed plastic bags. Apart from the ash, however, what is not appearing, thankfully, is the acid rain, but that remains a possibility, especially if that lava flow does actually reach the sea.

Those who have lost their homes to the lava are expected to be rehoused shortly, moving on from emergency accommodation to a new stage in their sad new world. The La Palma Cabildo says that it expects them to be moved to tourist apartments and residential home accommodation later today. Meanwhile, PM Pedro Sánchez arrived back in La Palma around 10.30 this morning from his unavoidable UN appearance in New York last evening, and has called for the banks to make available their stocks of repossessed and investment properties for human beings who actually need somewhere to live. His call has been echoed by opposition leader Pablo Casado (PP). They have no power to force the banks, of course, and it is probably ineffectual to call on their better nature, but the call has to be made for politically rhetorical reasons, hence Casado having to mirror Sánchez’ call. Today, the King and Queen are in La Palma to see with their own eyes the devastation caused by the eruption and to try to offer whatever consolation their presence and support can provide. The real power in the island, however, continues to be nature itself, to which all eyes are turned and upon which all hopes are pinned.

Updated 22 September – Eruption Day 4: Aemet spokesman Rubén del Campo has said that east and north Tenerife could experience acid raid from the La Palma eruption later today. Aemet is currently working out various parameters of direction, speed and pollutants with regard to the cloud the eruption is emitting and we will have confirmed and more specific detail later. It’s presumably unnecessary for some and pointless for others to hear that sulphur dioxide/acid rain does not bring anything positive for human health and we should stay indoors if it rains right now.

While we await specifics, Involcan says that it took measurements yesterday to evaluate and monitor the amount of sulphur dioxide (SO2) emitted into the atmosphere by the current eruptive process at Cumbre Vieja. The results obtained for this third day of the eruption reflect a SO2 emission rate of between 6,140 and 11,500 tonnes per day, assuming that the wind speed at 3,000 metres yesterday was between 2.2 and 4.2 metres per second (via AEMET). As yesterday, the estimation was made from several transects of measurements with remote miniDOAS type optical sensors in both mobile and ground positions. The linear SO2 concentrations (ppm.m) recorded by ground observations are equivalent to those recorded by the TROPOMI satellite observations, but the SO2 emission results obtained from ground observations are underestimated when observing the large size of the SO2 plume recorded by the TROPOMI satellite observations.

Updated 9pm, 21/9: Live feed from Canarian TV of what is now considered the most active spell of the original eruption. Described as Strombolian in type, this latest increase in activity was so sudden that initially a new vent was thought to have formed but it was the original vent reactivating … and how.

and another live feed from TV La Palma:

Updated 7pm, 21/9: Unimaginable … until it becomes reality. A wall of burning lava devouring people’s homes … this is in the valle de Aridane.  

Updated 2pm, 21/9: Clio and I hear from Barbara Belt “on the ground” in La Palma, with her report close to where the volcano is erupting. We discuss science, safety, and what might happen next. It’s HERE.

Photo:: Guardia Civil

Updated 21 September: A torrid night last night saw further strong tremors and another vent opening and forcing yet more evacuations. This morning, Involcan has issued an update on the emission of sulphur dioxide (SO2) into the atmosphere on the second day of the current eruption process at Cumbre Vieja. Involcan says that results reflect an SO2 emission rate of between 7,997 and 10,665 tonnes per day, assuming a wind speed yesterday of 4.2 to 5.5m per second at an altitude of 3,000m (as confirmed by Aemet). The estimation was made with measurements taken by remote miniDOAS optical sensors in air and ground mounted mobile positions.

Involcan explains that daily monitoring of this parameter will be fundamental to analyse the evolution of the current process and to enable them to certify the eruption’s end. The values obtained during the second day of this eruptive process (8,000-10,500 tonnes per day) are similar and even slightly higher than the values recorded for the first day of the eruption (6,000-9,000 tonnes per day). These results are consistent with the first 48 hours of evolution of this eruptive process with the appearance of a new point of emission of magmatic material in Tacande, an area of the municipality of El Paso (La Palma).

The SO2 emission results obtained from ground-based observations are consistent with the satellite observations recorded by TROPOMI, the satellite instrument on board the Copernicus Sentinel-5 Precursor satellite. Sentinel-5 Precursor (S5P) is the first of the atmospheric composition Sentinels, launched on 13 October 2017.

Clio and I will be discussing the eruption in a CanaryCast later today.

Updated 5pm, 20/9: These spectacular images of La Palma from a lifeboat patrolling the no-sail zone to the island’s SW give a slightly different perspective of the eruption. It and other craft will stay there to monitor the waters, and ensure that no sightseers take to the waves for a view as if the volcano were a fiesta’s fireworks. In this respect, there is considerable furore today over the national tourism minister’s comments yesterday that the eruption would be good for the island commercially.

Reyes Maroto’s words were condemned by many environmentalists and social commenters as houses were burning and being consumed by the lava flow. Her words infuriated those trying to deal with the logistical nightmare on the ground, but online evidence including attempts to get flights from Gran Canaria to La Palma show that she wasn’t wrong. Clearly, given the opporunity, people seem intent on satisfying their own curiosity regardless of all else, including others’ misery.

In terms of the eruption itself, when the lava stream reaches the sea there should be a cloud of acid rain comprising sulphur dioxide. This is being emitted now by the eruption and forms part of the cloud that is spreading over La Gomera, along the west coast of Tenerife and which is already reaching south Gran Canaria. Involcan director Nemesio Pérez says that its level will be what determines if and when the eruption can be declared over. He thinks this could be more than a week but obviously the declaration of the end of the eruption will be based on criteria analysed from a range of continuously assessed scientific measurements.

Updated 2pm, 20/9: This is the very moment that the eruption started shortly after 3pm yesterday. Canarian TV was on the spot, waiting for it because it was much anticipated … but a journalist’s lot is to stand and wait, and sometimes to have your back to the main event when it happens! But what amazing footage, an historic day, as the commentary says.

Updated 1pm, 20/9: The Canarian Astrophysics Institute in La Palma has given us this Incredible timelapse of the eruption and its cloud through yesterday and last night, filmed from the Roque de los Muchachos observatory.

Updated 20 September: Scenes this morning, as the stream of lava heads down to the sea against the backdrop of the flames from the eruption. Binter says four LP flights have been cancelled and some delays caused but otherwise things are operating normally. The Spanish Airspace Agency Enaire has confirmed that international air travel remains unaffected but obviously the eruption is evolving and all authorities can do is refer to the situation at the present time. PEVOLCA’s science commitee is meeting at midday, and as we know, Canarian President Torres and Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez are both in La Palma right now overseeing the situation this morning.

Updated 11pm … incredible live footage while it lasts … it’s the noise that’s almost more appalling than the images!

Updated 10pm, 19/9: This is La Palma tonight. Several areas have now been evacuated, and the Guardia Civil say that around 5,000 people are being accommodated in Los Llanos de Aridane public buildings. There are eight vents in two fissures producing multiple flows moving at around 0.5km per hour with internal temperatures of 1,075ºC, they say. The military emergencies unit has set out for La Palma, leaving Los Cristianos in Tenerife from where the eruption’s cloud is clearly visible though some are struggling to distinguish it from the general cloudiness around at present, but it is a clear pyroclastic column. The Guardia Civil have confirmed this evening that airspace remains open, and is operating normally. Spanish PM Sánchez is now in La Palma, and staying for at least a coordination meeting in the morning: as he says, we are all now awaiting nature’s developments, and once again in debt to the scientists.

Updated 7.30pm, 19/9: The Guardia Civil says that they’ve started evacuating El Paso, Los Llanos de Aridane and Tazacorte in advance of the lava flow. Up to 10,000 are expected to need evacuation.

 Updated 7pm, 19/9: Red alert for La Palma issued by the Canarian Government. You can follow the eruption live on Canarian TV HERE. Sadly some dwellings have already been destroyed.

Updated 5pm, 19/9: Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez has said that he is heading to the Canaries, in view of the seismic evolution, to get first-hand information on the situation in La Palma, the coordination of the system and the protocols activated. The PM is already on his way and says that his planned visit to the USA to attend the current UN General Assembly. has been postponed. In La Palma itself, the usual rubbernecking has started and so the authorities have called on the public who aren’t in the eruption area to stay away from it. This is why … the area can’t even be reached safely let alone offer safety when there. There are now five vents.

Meanwhile, Binter says that it is following the eruption’s evolution closely. At present flights are operating normally albeit with some delays but one flight has had to return to TFN because it was unable to land in La Palma. Binter says they’re following the information and instructions provided by the relevant air authorities. There’s no current information about possible problems for international flights. For those interested in live footage, Canarian TV is running regular live broadcasts while specialists here are wondering quite what it would take for the national channels even to show an interest! Here’s some more local footage:

Updated 3.15pm, 19/9: An eruption has started on La Palma in the last five minutes, in the area of Cabeza de Vaca. The Tenerife and Gran Canaria Cabildos have sent detachments of bomberos, emergency vehicles and support workers, and the La Palma Cabildo has now closed certain roads (jurisdiction is divided depending on the type of road, the Cabildo in charge of main roads, eg between towns). Here are images from around 3pm of the start of the eruption which is apparently emerging from two vents at present.

Updated 19 September: Seismic acitvity has increased again with one of the most recent tremors registering over mag 4 with videos posted by volcanologists and meteorologists of rockfalls this morning. The alert level remains at yellow but they seem clearly now to be anticipating some sort of surface acivity, with local volcanologists saying they can easily see the alert level rising to orange soon. Pedro Sánchez has confirmed that the national Government is aware of the situation and is coordinating support, and the Canarian Government has initiated some precautionary evacuations of the disabled in areas at risk. At very local level, the ayuntamientos have also taken appropriate measures including the closure of some roads and suspension of municipal acivities.

The scientific committee overseeing the Canarian Volcanic Emergency Plan (Plan de Emergencias Volcánicas de Canarias: PEVOLCA) is meeting again later today. It comprises experts from the National Geographic Institute (IGN), the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), the Volcanological Institute of the Canary Islands (Involcan), the Spanish Geological and Mining Institute (IGME), the State Meteorological Agency (AEMET), the Spanish Oceanographic Institute (IEO), and the Universities of La Laguna and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The committee has indicated that much current seismic activity is occurring at a depth of no more than 8 km – very near the surface. Many tremors have been felt by the public now and there are numerable reports of noises and vibrations associated with surface seismicity.

La Palma is, they say, currently experiencing the maximum seismic activity since this cluster started, and it’s increasing. Deformation is now 15cm, a 5cm growth in the last 24 hours, with the centre of pressure coincident with the area where the earthquakes are felt on the surface: Las Manchas and Jedey. To assist the scientists, the public is asked to inform the authorities if they see any anomalous activity as the process evolves. Currently, the Canarian Government classifies La Palma as in a pre-eruptive phase, increasing the chances that it will culminate in an eruption, though without a clear idea of timescale. The public is reminded to be alert and pay heed to official and trusted channels of communication because regular updates will be released.

Official advice for anyone who feels an earthquake indoors is to take cover under a door frame or a solid piece of furniture, such as a table, and stay away from windows. Don’t use lifts, and if you have to leave your home, turn off water, electricity and gas. Outside, move away from tall buildings, lamp posts, advertising boards, etc. and if you are near the sea, move away from the shore. In the event of an evacuation, ayuntamientos will advise the evacuation routes and established assembly points. Evacuate only when given instructions to do so. As a precautionary measure, choose a family member or friend as a point of reference to let them know where you are going in case of evacuation and make sure the rest of your family knows. If you live with disabled people who need a special evacuation (ambulance), notify the Social Affairs department of the municipality.

The standard international emergency routines also apply here, and the Canarian Government specifies them. Have a means of communication available, preferably a mobile phone with charger, as well as a battery-operated radio, torch, candles and spare batteries, and follow the instructions given by the competent authorities. Evacuation communication will be carried out via mobile public address system with Local Police, TV and radio broadcasting, and official and trusted social media. Make sure you have enough medication for family members who need it on a regular basis. It is advisable to keep the personal documents of the whole family and the household in a folder. Keep bottled water available because drinking supplies may be affected. Keep a dry foods larder, with basic, non-perishable food able to sustain a household for a few days. All adults should know how to turn off gas, water and electricity because these must be turned off if evacuated. If possible, keep car tanks full because petrol stations might be closed.

Those with agricultural responsibilities like farm animals should get in touch with their local Agricultural Extension Agency or the Cabildo to find out what the arrangements are. The official line on anyone with livestock who is required to evacuate and cannot take their animals too is that they should leave them loose, not tied up or enclosed. Those with pets should entrust their care to family or friends outside the areas at risk. If that is impossible, the authorities will take care of them while their owners are away from home. For hygiene reasons they cannot be kept in shelters.

Finally, please remember that 112 is an emergency telephone number – for emergencies only. If you require any general information about the situation, you should call 012 or get information from the media.

Updated 18 September: Seismic activity has reduced somewhat and, as we saw yesterday, the public and media furore over a possible Cumbre Vieja landslide and resulting megatsunami has been roundly dismissed with great scientific rigour and detail. Nonetheless, volcanologists say that this does not reduce the risk of seismic and eruptive developments in La Palma and close monitoring and analysis continues because land deformation, tremor frequency and intensity are changing rapidly. One tremor in the early hours of this morning indeed, was pretty sizable at 3.2 magnitude, and almost at the very surface, at a depth of around just 100m, and experts say that it is the tremors nearer the surface that are often more damaging to material property.

The insular authorities have approved contingency evacuation plans and have called two meetings today, 18 September, to inform residents in the areas of Las Manchas de Abajo, San Nicolás, Jedey, La Bombilla, El Remo and Puerto de Naos about the volcanic risk alert. The first, at 6pm is for residents of Las Manchas de Abajo, San Nicolás and Jedey. The second is at 7.30pm for residents of La Bombilla, El Remo and Puerto de Naos. Both will be held in the Federico Simón Canarian Wrestling Stadium.

Updated 17 September: Following sensationalist rumours on social media above all, I think, INVOLCAN’s Geological Hazards Director Luis González de Vallejo has issued the following statement HERE … I’ve translated to English below:

ON THE STABILITY OF CUMBRE VIEJA, LA PALMA
The recent volcanic reactivation on La Palma has once again raised the hot topic of the stability of the island’s western flank and, in particular, of the Cumbre Vieja volcanic edifice, a running issue over decades causing concern in society.

Ever since some researchers suggested 20 years ago the possibility of a major collapse of the western flank of Cumbre Vieja and, as a consequence, the generation of a megatsunami, fears of such a catastrophic event have been widespread. Despite this hypothesis being refuted and subsequently discarded by numerous researchers, some media outlets surprisingly continue to talk about this catastrophic event of a large gravitational landslide of the west flank of the Cumbre Vieja volcano.

This hypothesis involved the existence of a surface of geological weakness of great length, extension, and depth, consisting of a basal layer formed by materials from previous landslides, the so-called mortalón, and the presence of an almost vertical fracture with an approximately north-south direction, tens of kilometres long and several kilometres deep, which would limit the alleged Cumbre Vieja landslide on the east side.

The mortalón layer has been verified in numerous galleries, shafts, tunnels and boreholes. Neither the continuity nor the depth of the large fracture has been verified, so that the conditions on which the landslide theory is mainly based are no more than a simple hypothesis. However, if we take into account the resistant properties of the mortalón, the current geometry of the island, the geological structure, the inclination of the layers, etc., Cumbre Vieja would be stable even in the face of future eruptive episodes and associated seismicity, according to the geomechanical models and stability analyses carried out, where magma injection pressures, seismic accelerations, the influence of interstitial pressures, etc., have been taken into account.

For the Cumbre Vieja flank to reach conditions even approaching instability, an exceptionally high magnitude earthquake and an equally strongly explosive volcanic eruption would have to occur simultaneously, or else the current volcanic edifice would have to reach at least a thousand metres above the current maximum elevation in its natural growth. It would take more than 40,000 years to reach that height based on the average growth rate of the island over the last million years. On the other hand, the probability of a high-explosive eruption occurring at the same time as a major earthquake is extremely remote, according to the geological record of such events on the island. Therefore, Cumbre Vieja is stable, even under the effects of eruptions similar to those that have occurred in the last tens of thousands of years.

These results are part of several research projects on large gravitational landslides and megatsunamis, in which researchers from the Volcanological Institute of the Canary Islands (INVOLVCAN) have played an important role.

Luis González de Vallejo

Director del Área de Riesgos Geológicos del INVOLCÁN, Catedrático Honorífico de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM)

Updated 16 September: The Canarian Volcanological Institute says that there has been a “significant volcanic ground deformation in recent days” in the Cumbre Vieja area. The Institute reports that this reflects the pressurization of a small magmatic reservoir of approximately 11 million m³ within Cumbre Vieja at a depth of around 6 km. The Institute’s observations confirm that the recent cluster of over 4,000 tremors which started on Saturday 11 September is magmatic in origin, and that the tremors are increasing in intensity. Monitoring continues and the alert level for the municipalities of El Paso, Los Llanos de Aridane, Mazo and Fuencaliente remains at yellow but experts say that seismic activity could increase further in coming days, depending on the evolution of the activity. We’ve been here before, and it has all died away again, but as the volcanologists say themselves, an eruption is a case of when, not if.

Original post 13 September: Low grade earth tremors occur all the time in these islands, and it’s something to be thankful for because in the process they release volcanic pressure. Often there are seismic clusters which are reported as anomalous but within safe parameters, and sometimes there are eruptions that are anything but spectacular, causing rubbly runs of what looks like fruit cake mix or, sometimes, new “islands” appear that quickly get the name of Roque in some form because that’s pretty much all they are. Only very rarely, however, do we get a yellow alert for anything other than weather, but they do exist, and one has just been issued for volcanic activity in La Palma.

That island is, of course, famous for being the focus of tabloid stories trumpeting the nature and peril of Cumbre Vieja, said to contain water as well as magma and so capable of acting as a boiler whose steam-fuelled explosion would cause the collapse of a chamber wall, a subsequent major landslip falling into the ocean to create a tsunami to wipe out the eastern seaboard of the United States, with untold damage caused to anything getting in the way, like the southern English coast.

Naturally these stories are built up to fulfil the two main tabloid motivations, to titillate and horrify, but at the root of their story is the fact that La Palma does indeed have an old peak and there is potential for something to happen to it, albeit in timescales that are geological eras longer than newspaper headlines imply. But at the moment, it is in the Cumbre Vieja area that the latest cluster of tremors has been recorded, and they have increased in magnitude and have been felt by the public. The yellow alert refers to volcanic activity that could affect the areas of Los Llanos de Aridane, El Paso, Fuencaliente and Mazo, and residents in those areas should be alert to any information released by the authorities through established and trusted channels.

The authorities stress that the volcanic alert system has four levels, and that the yellow alert is the lowest. It reflects the registration of volcanic activity that requires intensified information to be provided to the public and for vigilance measures to be put in place, but represents no actual risk to the public.