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Spain: La Palma volcano eruption spills lava bigger than 25 football pitches

Lava from the erupting volcano on La Palma in Spain's Canary Islands that began cascading into the ocean two days ago has already covered an area bigger than 25 football pitches, with concerns rising over worsening air quality in nearby residential areas, experts say.

The newly wrought peninsula had doubled in size to 20 hectares, according to the Volcanic Institute of the Canaries (Involcan).

While the feared explosion and clouds of toxic gases released as the molten rock hit the ocean have not materialised, a forecast change in wind may bring new hazards, the Pevolca volcanic emergency committee warned.




Since it began on September 19, the dramatic eruption has forced thousands out of their homes, while lava has destroyed hundreds of houses, businesses and huge swathes of banana plantations.

The volcano spewed out rivers of lava that slowly crept towards the sea, eventually pouring into the Atlantic Ocean late on Tuesday.

Since then, the rivers of molten rock have not stopped cascading into the sea, creating a growing lava delta.



While the initial impact on the flora and fauna of being submerged under the river of molten rock is devastating, over the longer term, it may prove beneficial bringing minerals from the Earth's core to the surface and providing a habitat both underwater and on land for colonisation by species, experts said.

Fernando Tuya, a biodiversity researcher at the University of La Palma, said: "The lava will form a rocky platform that will become a substrate for numerous marine species in the future, that is to say in three to five years."

As the white-hot lava poured into the sea, it sent plumes of acid fumes into the air that experts said could irritate the skin, eyes and respiratory tracts.

But fears it could affect the local population were quickly allayed as strong winds dispersed the vapours over the sea.

However that could change with the wind direction predicted to turn around on Friday.

La Palma has been declared a natural disaster zone, with the lava scorching its way across 476 hectares of land, the local government said on Twitter.

It has so far destroyed 855 buildings, an increase of more than 200 in just over 24 hours, the EU's Copernicus observation programme said on Twitter.

The eruption of La Cumbre Vieja has forced some 6,000 people to flee their homes but so far, nobody has been injured or killed.




Although the volcano is still erupting, La Palma's airport resumed operations on Wednesday after flights were suspended at the weekend due to the ash.

On Thursday, farmers were allowed to access their plantations outside the security zone to collect bananas