By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent
More than 30,000 people were ordered to remain indoors as the Cumbre Viejo volcano suddenly sprang to life on Sunday.
Witnesses saw several explosions sending a vast cloud of ash and smoke into the sky.
The regional government of Spain’s Canary Islands, which lie off Africa’s northwest coast, ordered residents of three municipalities to lockdown owing to high levels of sulfur dioxide in the air.
The three municipalities are home to roughly 33,000 people, or nearly 40 percent of the population of the island, according to official
estimates. “Close the doors, windows, shutters and prevent any air coming in from the outside,” said the regional government in a statement. “Confine yourself, if possible, in the rooms located furthest inside.”
The authorities recommended that people turn off air conditioning and heating and use tape to seal doors and windows. “If you find yourself outside, be aware that a car is not a safe place and confine yourself to the first building you find,” the government added.
Lava from the volcano on La Palma continues to scorch neighborhoods.
More than 7,000 people have been evacuated from their homes since the volcano erupted on September 19, spewing out rivers of lava that have slowly crept towards the sea.
Nobody has died as a result of the eruptions, but more than 2,800 buildings have been destroyed, according to EU monitoring service Copernicus.
Scientists said volcanic eruptions are unpredictable. Spanish experts had initially said the La Palma eruption could last three months. However, the ongoing eruption of La Palma’s active volcano suggested that it could take much longer.
Experts already call it La Palma’s longest eruption and the third in a century, with previous ones in 1949 and 1971.
Authorities continue to measure the number and magnitude of earthquakes in the area and local sulfur dioxide levels. From Saturday to Sunday, authorities recorded 24 earthquakes, although local people felt none or few.
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