Hundreds of people in Spain’s Canary Islands feared for their homes and property Wednesday as a new river of lava from an erupting volcano threatened another neighborhood on the island of La Palma.
Island authorities ordered the evacuation of around 800 people from the coastal town of Los Llanos de Aridane on Tuesday after the lava took a new course on its way to Atlantic Ocean and put their homes in a probable path of destruction.
It was the first mass exit since around 6,000 people were told to leave the immediate area in the hours after the Cumbre Vieja volcano erupted on Sept. 19. No large evacuations were needed in the following three weeks.
But on Tuesday, volcano scientists found that a new lava flow to the north of the main river of molten rock had branched off and was heading toward an inhabited area outside what had previously been the evacuation zone.
“A part of the neighborhood had already been evacuated, but given the evolution of the lava stream, it was deemed necessary to clear this specific zone,” Los Llano de Aridane Mayor Maria Garcia told Spanish state broadcaster TVE.
Residents of the La Laguna neighborhood had only a few hours to gather up their most precious belongings and leave. Volunteers helped staff at a school in the neighborhood salvage educational materials, while others loaded up cars and trucks with furniture.
Police accompanied individual families who requested to go back into the exclusion zone to retrieve more belongings on Wednesday.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez traveled to the island on Wednesday, his fourth visit since the initial eruption.
“Unfortunately, the news we have from the scientific committee is that the volcano’s activity is not decreasing, so a reduction in its activity is not foreseeable in the coming days,” Sanchez said. “I know it is tough after so many days and nights of suffering, but I ask you to remain patient, because we can not do anything until the volcano stops.”
Sanchez’s government has pledged 214 million euros ($247 million) to help rebuild homes, farms and businesses in the affected area.
La Palma is part of Spain’s Canary Islands, an Atlantic Ocean archipelago off northwest Africa whose economy depends on tourism and the cultivation of the Canary plantain.
Lava has destroyed over 1,400 buildings, including homes, farms and other structures, and covered 656 hectares (1,621 acres), including 90 hectares (more than 200 acres) dedicated to the growth of plantains. No lives have been lost.
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