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La Palma volcano: Ash cloud causes closure of airport

·2-min read

An ash cloud from an erupting volcano has caused the closure of the airport on La Palma in Spain's Canary Islands.

Cumbre Vieja began exploding a week ago and has forced 7,000 people to evacuate their homes.

Its lava has destroyed 420 buildings and covered an area of 190 hectares, according to the latest data from Copernicus.

On Saturday, La Palma airport said it was closing due to the accumulation of volcanic ash near the facility.

That decision comes after seven flights to and from the island were cancelled on Friday.

La Palma Airport operator Aena said on Twitter that plane traffic was suspended “due to the accumulation of ash" in the air. The company said other airports in the Canary Islands were still operational.

La Palma is one of the seven islands that make up the Spanish archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean. The volcanic eruption that started last Sunday is the first in 50 years on La Palma, which has a population of about 85,000.

The intensity of the volcanic eruptions has increased in recent days, prompting the evacuation of three additional villages on the island.

Emergency crews pulled back from the volcano Friday as explosions sent molten rock and ash over a wide area.

But the speed of the lava flows has slowed markedly and authorities are no longer able to predict if and when they might arrive in the Atlantic Ocean.

The meeting between lava and the sea is feared because of the emission of toxic gases that it could cause.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has announced that the Spanish government will declare La Palma a natural disaster-affected area next Tuesday.

This measure will unblock the granting of aid to residents.

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