Lava from the Canary Islands reaches the Ocean, Experts fear Explosions

After nine days of havoc and slow destruction, red hot lava from a volcano Cubre Vieja on the Spanish island of La Palma reached the Atlantic Ocean late on Tuesday evening, sending plumes of steam from the water potentially carrying clouds of toxic gases into the air. The authorities are urging the public to stay away. No injuries have been reported so far.

It’s the first time the volcano has erupted in 50 years and experts say the eruption could take weeks to stop.

Molten rock has been flowing down the Volcano’s western flank for over a week, engulfing hundreds of houses and farms, since its eruption on 19th September. Thousands of residents were evacuated and three coastal villages were locked down on Monday in anticipation of the lava meeting the Atlantic Ocean.

"When the lava reaches the sea, the lockdown must be strictly observed," Miguel Angel Morcuende, director of the Pevolca response committee, said earlier on Tuesday.

Spain’s Government has declared the island a disaster zone and has announced a 10.5 million euros support package in direct aid to the victims, including purchase of housing.

The accumulation of ash has disrupted air traffic, causing the cancellation of seven scheduled domestic flights on Friday and the closure of the airport the following day. Although it has officially reopened, flights remain suspended for the time being.

The dangers of lava

When lava comes into contact with ocean water, it produces a gas plume known as laze - lava and haze.

Laze forms through a series of chemical reactions as hot lava boils the colder seawater.

"It creates a steam of hydrochloric acid, water vapor, and bits of ash," science journalist and volcanologist Dr. Robin George Andrews told the BBC when the volcano first erupted. "It's not good to breathe in."

Laze plumes can cause eye, lung, and skin irritation but should not be a problem if residents keep their distance, he said.

The authorities said everyone within a two-mile (3.5km) radius of where the lava met the sea must stay indoors - and must try to close up gaps in their homes to keep out the toxic gases.

Volcanic explosions were also possible, he added, because lava entering seawater creates "a pressure-cooker situation" that "might fling out volcanic debris".

There was an incident in Hawaii where a chunk of molten rock, known as a lava bomb, crashed into a tourist boat off Hawaii's coast in 2018, injuring 23 people.

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