Increased volcanic eruptions on the Spanish island of La Palma forced firefighters to retreat and authorities to evacuate three more cities on Friday, while airlines canceled flights due to clouds of gas and ash, the largest since the volcano erupted.
Firefighters stopped clearing the city of Todoke on Friday afternoon, as a new gorge opened in the flanks of the volcano, and a video shared on social networks showed a powerful shock wave coming from the site of the eruption.
“The volcano is in a new explosive phase … Firefighters will no longer work today,” the Tenerife fire service, which was sent to help La Palma, wrote on Twitter.
Authorities ordered the evacuation of the cities of Tajuya, Takande de Abajo and the part of Takande de Arriba that had not yet been evacuated, on Friday afternoon, and residents were ordered to gather on the local football field.
Emergency services in the Canary Islands initially asked residents to stay indoors to avoid a dense cloud of ash and lava fragments, but later a decision was made to evacuate due to the increased risk of explosions.
Not only people but also animals were evacuated.
“Evacuating people is a top priority … although there are other important tasks, such as ensuring the safety of pets,” the Civil Guard wrote on Twitter, posting a video showing officers reluctantly carrying goats to safety.
No serious injuries or deaths have been reported, but about 15 percent of the economically important banana crop on the island could be at risk, threatening thousands of jobs.
Canary Binter said on Friday that it had canceled all flights to La Palma due to the volcanic eruption, while Iberia (ICAG.L) canceled the only flight scheduled for that day, and another local airline, Canaryfly, also suspended flights.
Binter said it was forced to suspend flights to La Palma and back because the ash cloud had deteriorated significantly over the past few hours.
A cloud of toxic gas and ash stretches into the sky for more than four kilometers, the Canary Islands Volcanological Institute said on Thursday.
It began to drift northeast toward the Mediterranean and mainland Spain, the National Meteorological Agency said.
The airspace above the island remains open, except for two small areas near the eruption site.