Eruption and tremors around the Cumbre Vieja volcano on Spain’s La Palma slowed to a near halt on Monday morning, researchers said, while authorities locked down coastal villages in anticipation of the lava reaching the sea.
“In the last hours the volcanic tremor has almost disappeared, as well as the strombolian explosive activity,” the Canary Islands’ Involcan volcanology institute tweeted, referring to a type of intermittent eruption pattern.
The apparent lull does not mean the eruption has ended though, Stavros Meteltidis, a volcanologist with Spain’s National Geographic Institute, told the Antena3 television
“Just because the volcano is now less active doesn’t mean it can’t change,” he said.
With activity at the eruption site easing, authorities turned their attention to coastal areas where the superheated lava flow is expected to hit the Atlantic Ocean, likely triggering clouds of toxic gas and explosions.
“Population will have to follow the authorities guidance and remain in their home with doors and windows closed,” the Canary Islands emergency services said on their Twitter account.
People in the coastal areas of San Borondon, Marina Alta and Baja and La Condesa were ordered to lock down.
Reuters drone footage showed a river of red hot lava flowing down the slopes of the crater, passing over homes, and swathes of land and buildings engulfed by a black mass of slower-moving, older lava.
Since the volcano started erupting on Sept. 19, the flow of black lava has engulfed more than 230 hectares, the European Union satellite monitoring service Copernicus said, swallowing hundreds of houses as well as roads, schools, churches and banana plantations and forcing thousands to evacuate.
No fatalities or serious injuries have been reported since the volcano’s eruption, but about 15% of the island’s banana crop could be at risk, jeopardising thousands of jobs.
La Palma, with a population of over 83,000, is one of an archipelago making up the Canary Islands.