Lava from Spanish island volcano quickens pace toward sea

Lava flowing from an erupting volcano in Spain’s Canary Islands has picked up pace on its way to the sea and is now within about 800 meters (875 yards) of the shoreline, officials said Tuesday.

While one of two rivers of lava has slowed on La Palma, the other was hotter and more fluid and was bearing down on the small town of Todoque, where people have been evacuated from, the Canary Islands emergency volcano response department said.

Officials have for days been expecting the lava to reach the Atlantic Ocean, but the eruption has been erratic. After calming down on Monday, the volcano became more explosive again overnight.

When the molten rock eventually meets the sea water it could trigger explosions and the release of toxic gas, though authorities say they don’t expect the slow-moving lava to create large disruption on the coast.

La Palma, home to about 85,000, is part of the volcanic Canary Islands, an archipelago off northwest Africa. The island is roughly 35 kilometers (22 miles) long and 20 kilometers (12 miles) wide at its broadest point.

Lava from the eruption, which began on Sept. 19, has destroyed 589 buildings and 21 kilometers (13 miles) of roads on La Palma. The lava now covers 258 hectares (637 acres), mostly farmland, according to a European Union satellite monitoring agency.

No fatalities or serious injuries have been reported since the volcano’s eruption, thanks to prompt evacuations.

The volcano has so far spewed out more than 46 million cubic meters (1.6 billion cubic feet) of molten rock, according to the Canary Island Volcanology Institute.

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