Lava flowed from an erupting volcano on the Spanish island of La Palma for a fourth day on Wednesday, forcing more people to evacuate their homes and cover cities with ash as residents struggled to come to terms with the destruction.
“All we can do is cry. We are a small company, we live off all these people who have lost everything,” said Lorena, 30, who works in a jewelry store in the small town of Los Llanos de Aridane.
Since it erupted on Sunday, lava from the Cumbre Vieja volcano has destroyed at least 150 homes and forced thousands of people to flee, mainly in Los Llanos de Aridane and nearby El Paso.
Holding back tears as she swept a thick layer of ash from the street in front of her store, Nancy Ferreiro, the jewelry store owner, said: “There are no words to explain this feeling.”
Less than 5 km to the south, in Todoque, forked tongues of black lava crept westward, incinerating everything in their path, including houses, schools and the banana plantations that produce the island’s largest export.
Emergency services attempted to redirect the lava into a gorge in an effort to minimize the damage, but had little success.
“Faced with the advancing column of lava … nothing can be done,” regional leader Ángel Víctor Torres said at a press conference, adding that the flow had slowed to a slower pace.
Miguel Angel Morcuende, technical director of the Pevolca eruption task force, said the velocity of the lava had slowed so much that it might not reach the sea.
Experts had originally predicted that it would hit the Atlantic Ocean late Monday, potentially causing explosions and sending out clouds of toxic gases. The marine authorities are keeping a two-nautical-mile zone at sea closed as a precautionary measure.
Morcuende said that for now there was no indication that the gases released by the eruption were harmful to human health.
People from Jerey’s neighborhood in El Paso were ordered to evacuate Wednesday when lava slid near their homes.
Approximately 6,000 of the 80,000 inhabitants of La Palma have been evacuated since Sunday. Some were allowed to return briefly to retrieve their belongings.
The Idealista real estate portal estimated that the volcano had caused around 87 million euros ($ 102 million) in property destruction so far.
Late on Tuesday, the Canary Islands volcanology institute said the scale of seismic activity inside the volcano was intensifying.
Drone footage captured magma towers that exploded in midair, scattering debris on the flanks of the Cumbre Vieja volcano.
No fatalities or injuries have been reported.