Since last Sunday, when the Cumbre Vieja volcano erupted, a tongue of lava has been spreading from the central part of La Palma towards the east, destroying everything in its path. Already more than 5,000 people are evacuated of their houses and several hundred houses crushed under the lava flow.
However, in recent hours the rhythm of this river of fire has been slowing down. “We are measuring the speed of the laundry to get an idea of when it can reach the sea,” he explains. Eumenius Ancochea, Professor of Petrology at the Complutense University and one of the scientists who is measuring the action of the volcano on the ground.
However, it is estimated that in the last 12 hours the lava column has advanced only ten meters. For now, he avoids making a prediction but indicates that “if the eruption stops, the laundry will not reach the water.”
The scientific committee of Canary Islands Volcanic Emergency Plan, Pevolca, has shown doubts about the possibility that the lava sleeve reaches the coast. “The mathematical prediction we have is that it will continue to advance, but we do not know if it will reach the sea,” he says. Miguel Angel Morcuende, the technical director.
The slowdown of the lava river is completely normal, he notes Luis Jordá, mining engineer and author of the book Mountains of fire: routes and walks through the volcanoes of Europe. “It’s like a slimy river and, having reached an area of less slope, the speed decreases. In addition, it has spread, it has a wider surface and is no longer garrisoned, which also affects “.
There is another important factor: the force with which you push the eruption. “The volcano has to keep pushing from above, the wash is just the forefront of what is pressing from behind. Now he weighs much more, so he has to do more force because it’s a bigger mass. “
The cooling of some areas, which generates more friction with the surface, and the entry into a more explosive phase of the volcano, in which it expels less lava, also influence the speed, but Jordá believes that it will reach the sea at some point. “The eruption is going to last a while [se prevé que entre 24 y 84 días] and it looks like, if so, it will reach the sea. “
Eumenio Ancochea agrees with Jordá’s vision. “All the historical eruptions of the island of La Palma have reached the sea, so the normal thing is that it does “. The orography of the island makes it easy to do so. Either way,” the feeling is that it is advancing very slowly, but for a few hours we will not be able to know how fast it is. “
However, he downplays the fact that the lava reaches the water. “There will be explosions, but small,” and he calculates that they will reach 30 meters around, when by then “the whole world will be a kilometer away, and ships are being forbidden to reach the vicinity.”
Upon reaching a pouring temperature of hundreds of degrees, the water will boil and a column of steam will be generated. In statements to EFE, the vice-rector of the Geominero Institute of Spain, Luis Somoza, has explained that, despite being a “spectacular phenomenon”, this cloud is harmless to health although it will carry some particles of the toxic gases that emanate from the volcano.
“This is not the time for tourism”
Both Somoza and Ancochea rule out that these expelled toxic gases create a great danger. The volcanologist from the Complutense University also points out that the terrible thing “is being how one house after another is being destroyed. I wish the casting could be stopped, but by the time it reaches the sea it will have previously destroyed ground. “
Jordá shares the opinion. “There are people losing their homes.” That is the main problem with lava flow: the amount of ground that devastates in its path. Therefore, the dispersion of the incandescent material is one of the priorities. The fire brigades and the Military Emergency Unit have tried, with little success, to divert the tongue from the areas of houses by excavating artificial basins.
As time goes by, that monster up to 12 meters high will disperse, only contained by natural accidents that are on the way, and slowing down its advance as the volcano has to push, as Jordá says, an increasingly dispersed quantity.
The lava has already found some on its way. The first was a mountain that was less than two kilometers west of the eruption site, which diverted part of the laundry to the south. The second, most important, is the Todoque Mountain, which will prevent the lava from reaching parts of the coast behind them, such as Playa del Perdido.
The mountain, which rises just over 300 meters above sea level, stands directly in the path of the wash and may split it in two or divert it to the north. Just a little further north, the Mountain of La Laguna (which belongs to the municipality of Tazacorte) may represent another natural retaining wall for lava. Furthermore, the Pevolca points out that “certain natural holes“They can play a role in preventing the incandescent rock from reaching the sea.
As a volcano lover, Luis Jordá finds the natural spectacle somewhat fascinating, but he criticizes people who come to the island to take photos and are not professionals, among other things, because they can collapse exit access with cars and because it is a “lack of tact” with people who are seeing not only their home but their livelihood being destroyed. “Now is not the time to go sightseeing.”
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