The Canary Islands have been home to eager tourists and travelers for decades now. But recently, the beautiful Spanish archipelago also welcomed something rather unexpected: a daunting volcano eruption. Here's what to know about the history-making event.
On the afternoon of Sunday, September 19, the Cumbre Vieja volcano - nestled on the scenic shores of La Palma - was a sight to be seen. As flaming lava of about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit began shooting out of the site, the eruption looked almost surreal. Unfortunately, the aftermath was actually all too real.
"The price and privilege of living on a beautiful little island is, in this case, its geological history," geoscientist Helen Robinson explained. With endless citizens evacuated and several properties destroyed, Cumbre Vieja's latest eruption was perhaps only a matter of time. In fact, the famous attraction has been an active volcano site for thousands of years now.
While the site's last eruption dates back to 1971, that doesn't mean things have been uneventful ever since. As seismologist Itahiza Domínguez Cerdeña revealed, Cumbre Vieja has been making lots of noise in recent years - literally. Since around 2017, many earthquakes have been reported in the land surrounding the volcanic attraction.
In fact, mere hours before Sunday's eruption, a magnitude-4.2 earthquake left the volcano rumbling. And while some might have viewed it as an omen of what was to follow, volcanists have no idea what to expect next. Eruptions can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months, which means the resulting lava might linger for quite some time. "The only way to know is to know the total volume of eruptible magma under Cumbre Vieja," physical volcanist Pablo J. González explained.
"The lava left absolutely nothing in its path," local mayor Sergio Rodriguez revealed. As of Tuesday, the fiery magma has already engulfed over 100 hectares and damaged over 160 homes. And while the volcano's wrath is still underway, local residents are keeping their spirits high. "The island is open... We can make the most of this opportunity," Reyes Maroto, Spain's tourism minister, assured.