LOS LLANOS DE ARIDANE, Canary Islands — Lava flowing from a volcano in Spain’s Canary Islands picked up its pace on its way to the sea Tuesday. Still, scientists said it was impossible to estimate when the black-and-red stream of molten rock would reach the shore.
Authorities said the lava had moved on the island of La Palma to within 800 meters (875 yards) of the Atlantic Ocean as of Tuesday morning, nine days after the. When it eventually meets seawater, the lava could trigger explosions and release toxic gas.
By the afternoon, officials said various factors dictated the unpredictable speed of the, including its departure from a path over an earlier flow that had hardened. The river of cooled lava had helped the moving flow slide along.
“The lava cools down as time passes, and it meets the uneven ground, which slows it down,” said Miguel Ángel Morcuende, technical director of theemergency volcano response department. “And if it comes off the highway, it was going along, that out wider.”
A small hill and a built-up area also stood in the lava’s way, and the shore area was flatter than the hills the lava had been flowing down.
For days, officials have nervously awaited when lava from the Sept. 19 eruption reaches the Atlantic, but the volcano has been erratic. After calming down on Monday, the volcano became more explosive again overnight.
Authorities said they don’t expect the slow-moving lava to significantly disrupt the coast. But Eugenio Fraile, a researcher at the Spanish Oceanography Institute, told Cadena Ser radio that only scientists wearing protective gear would be inside a security perimeter when the flow hits the ocean.
Thedetected six earthquakes Tuesday in the eruption area, with the strongest measured at magnitude 3.3.
La Palma, home to about 85,000 people, is part of the volcanic Canary Islands, an archipelago off northwest Africa. The island is roughly 35 kilometers (22 miles) long and 20 kilometers (12 miles) wide at its broadest point.
Lava from the eruption has devoured everything in its path,and 21 kilometers (13 miles) of roads on La Palma. According to a European Union satellite monitoring agency, the lava now covers 258 hectares (637 acres), mostly farmland.
No deaths or serious injuries have been reported, thanks to theof over 6,000 people.
No flights left La Palma’s airport for a fourthash cloud. Volcanic ash is hazardous for aircraft engines.
After its weeklyTuesday, the Spanish government announced it’s providing an immediate grant of 10.5 million euros ($12.3 million) to buy 107 properties to rehouse local people and provide them with income aid. More aid, including the rebuilding of public infrastructure, will be sent once the current emergency is over, government spokeswoman Isabel Rodríguez said.
According to the Canary Island Volcanology Institute, The volcano has spewed out more than 46 million cubic meters (1.6 billion cubic feet) of molten rock.