La Palma volcano: Toxic gas fears as lava creeps closer to the sea

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Lava flowing from an erupting volcano in Spain’s Canary Islands has picked up pace on its way to the sea, officials said on Tuesday.

It is now within about 800 metres of the shoreline.

The volcano erupted nine days ago and two lava rivers had formed destroying hundreds of buildings in their paths.

Late last week, officials said one of them had ground to a halt and that the second one had slowed significantly upon reaching a plain.

But the volcano’s activity, which had calmed down somewhat on Monday, became explosive once more overnight with ash spewing out.

The lava is now bearing down on the small town of Todoque, where people have been evacuated from, the Canary Islands emergency volcano response department said on Tuesday.

Explosions and releases of toxic gas are expected when the lava eventually reaches the sea.

Residents in several neighbourhoods have meanwhile been confined to their homes due to fears of toxic gas emissions.

No fatalities or serious injuries have been reported amongst the island’s 85,000 population since the September 19 eruption.

The volcano has so far spewed out more than 46 million cubic metres of molten rock, according to the Canary Island Volcanology Institute.

The airport in La Palma, which was shut down on Saturday due to an accumulation of ash, was operational on Monday, but traffic remained disrupted. The airline Binter announced that it was continuing to suspend its flights, as it felt that safety conditions were not guaranteed.

The two previous eruptions in La Palma took place in 1949 and 1971. They caused a total of three deaths, two of which were caused by gas inhalation.

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