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La Palma’s airport forced to close as volcanic eruption continues

Authorities have closed La Palma’s airport as a new vent opened in an erupting volcano, spreading more ash across the island.

Flights to and from the Spanish island have been cancelled as a result of the volcanic eruption that has lasted nearly a week.

Rivers of lava poured down the slopes of the volcano and flew high into the air as the eruption entered its most explosive stage after a new vent opened on Saturday.

Lava and smoke rise from an erupting volcano in the Cumbre Vieja national park at Los Llanos de Aridane, on the Canary Island of La Palma, Spain, September 25, 2021. REUTERS/Marco Trujillo

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Lava and smoke rise from an erupting volcano in the Cumbre Vieja national park

La Palma Airport operator Aena said on Twitter that plane traffic was suspended “due to the accumulation of ash” in the air.

Other airports in the Canary Islands are still operational, the company added.

Lava and smoke rise following the eruption of a volcano on the Canary Island of La Palma, in Tajuya, Spain, September 25, 2021. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

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Almost 7,000 people have had to leave their homes.

Workers wearing PPE cleared up the ash as travellers attempted to change their tickets to get on the next available flights.

Other passengers opted to travel by ferry to another island in the Canaries where they could catch flights.

The intensity of the eruptions has increased in recent days, prompting the evacuation of three additional villages on the island. Almost 7,000 people have had to leave their homes.

Staff at La Palma airport have been clearing the ash. Pic: AENA

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Staff at La Palma airport have been clearing the ash. Pic: AENA

“Volcanic surveillance measurements carried out since the beginning of the eruption recorded the highest-energy activity

so far during Friday afternoon,” emergency services said.

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

Lava flows have destroyed hundreds of buildings on the island’s western side.

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La Palma volcano: residents stranded

Residents there were initially told to stay indoors but emergency services said they decided to take more serious precautions due to increased volcanic activity.

On a visit to La Palma on Friday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced a package of measures to help get the island back on its feet and “rebuild lives”.

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What’s next for La Palma?

The Spanish government will provide aid for rebuilding homes and public infrastructure, such as roads, irrigation networks and schools, as well as relaunching the island’s tourism industry, Mr Sanchez said.

He did not say how much money would be made available but said a cabinet meeting next week would provide more details.

No serious injuries or fatalities have been reported amid the volcano’s eruption, but about 15% of the island’s economically crucial banana crop could be at risk of destruction.

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