Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, cancelled his trip to the United Nations General Assembly in New York and flown instead to the Canary island of La Palma following the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano, at 1512 local time, yesterday, Sunday 19th September.
The island’s authorities raised the emergency level from the lowest yellow to the highest red, following the eruption yesterday afternoon.
The Canary Islands regional premier, Angel Victor Torres, said that 5,000 people had been evacuated though there had been no injuries reported.
“It is not foreseeable that anyone else will have to be evacuated. The lava is moving towards the coast and the damage will be material. According to experts there are about 17-20 million cubic meters of lava,” he said.
Experts have been relieved that the lava flow has been seaward, moving at an estimated 700 metres per hour.
The area of the eruption is sparsely populated but if there are further eruptions it could lead to as much as half the island’s population of 85,000 people being evacuated from nearby municipalities.
The Prime Minister is expected to meet island officials, emergency personnel and evacuees this morning.
Speaking on arrival last night he said: “Enough troops are available to face any type of contingency. Everything is going according to plan, and therefore the priority is to guarantee the safety of the citizens of La Palma who could be affected as a consequence of this eruption.”
The eruption came after a week-long series of seismic tremors, known as an earthquake swarm, in the Cumbre Vieja national park.