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Canary Islands volcano: New vent opens, more people flee

Rivers of lava on the Spanish island of La Palma continue to engulf everything in their path. A new fissure has now emerged north of the original eruption site.

Watch video 02:16

Thousands flee rivers of lava from volcano on La Palma

At least 200 people were forced to flee their homes on Tuesday as a new fissure emerged in the erupting volcano on Spain's Canary Islands.

The volcano on the island of La Palma erupted on Sunday after a week of seismic activity that progressed to a 3.8 magnitude quake.

The new vent is 900 meters (3,000 feet) north of the Cumbre Vieja national park, where the volcano first erupted. It emerged after a 4.1 magnitude earthquake late Monday, the Involcan volcanology institute said.

What has been the damage so far?

Rivers of lava, as much as 6 meters high, rolled down hillsides, burning and crushing everything in their path and affecting nearly 400 farms.

By Tuesday, lava had covered 103 hectares (about 260 acres) of terrain, according to the European Union's Earth Observation Program, Copernicus.

So far, about 6,000 people on La Palma have been evacuated, and 183 houses have been damaged, government spokeswoman Isabel Rodriguez said after a Cabinet meeting in Madrid.

No casualties have been reported.

When will lava reach the sea?

Molten lava was expected to reach the sea by Monday, but its speed has slowed down. By Tuesday morning, the white-hot mass of molten rock, with a temperature of nearly 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,830 degrees Fahrenheit), had still not reached the western coast.

Volcanologist Stavros Meletlidis said it was not clear when it would reach the sea because its speed was "very variable."

"It can accelerate very quickly, especially when the topography changes ... or it can stop on a plain for several hours. You have to see how both the main flow and the secondary flow are developing," he said.

Experts warn that, when lava reaches the sea, it will generate clouds of toxic gas. 

How has the government reacted?

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the crisis management on La Palma "does not end when the lava reaches the sea."

"It will end when we rebuild all the damage caused by the eruption of the volcano," Sanchez said, pledging to stand with those affected.

Authorities are seeking financial aid from the EU to help rebuild, said Angel Victor Torres, the head of the Canary Islands regional government.

Torres said the damage already amounted to more than €400 million ($470 million), qualifying the region for emergency EU aid.

fb/dj (AFP, AP, Reuters, EFE)

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