Los Llanos de Aridan, Canary Islands (AFP) – Residents of the Spanish island of La Palma braced Wednesday for the possibility of larger earthquakes that could exacerbate damage from a lava-spill volcano more than five weeks ago since it erupted.
Seismologists said a 4.6-magnitude quake shook the island, a day after a 4.9-magnitude quake was recorded, the most powerful yet among hundreds of quakes that have occurred under La Palma since the volcano erupted on Sept. 19.
So far, the earthquakes have either been small enough or far enough under La Palma that they do not cause any damage, other than increasing the anxiety of the islanders. Tuesday’s earthquake was felt 60 miles away in three other parts of the Canary Islands, an archipelago off northwest Africa.
“The scientific committee warned more than a week ago that we could see earthquakes, given their recent depth of about 12 kilometers (7.4 miles) and their strength, which is up to 6 (on the Richter scale),” said Maria Jose Blanco, director of Spain’s National Geographic Institute. In the Canary Islands, for the Spanish national radio station RTVE.
Molten rock flows from Cumbre Vieja volcano itself have caused the evacuation of about 7,500 people and destroyed more than 2,000 structures, most of them homes. Lava rivers cover more than 2,200 acres of mostly farmland, while the main flow of the island extends into the Atlantic Ocean as it cools.
The explosion did not result in deaths. Other than the area on the western side of the island, life continues as normal for La Palma’s 85,000 residents except for having to clean up the volcanic ash.
The last eruption of the volcano on the island in 1971 lasted for 24 days. The longest was in 1949 and lasted 47 days. The current activity is on day 39 and shows no signs of stopping.
“We saw the worst-case scenario in the 1949 eruption of a volcano, when the mouth of a second volcano opened and cut off the southern part of the island, which had to be supplied by boat,” said volcanologist Vicente Soller. “That’s highly unlikely, though not impossible, today.”