Spain: La Palma island braces for bigger shallow earthquakes as volcano continues to roar

Residents on Spain’s La Palma island brace for the possibility of bigger earthquakes that could compound the damage from a volcano spilling lava more than five weeks since it erupted.

Seismologists said a 4.6 magnitude earthquake shook the island a day after they recorded a 4.9 magnitude quake that was the strongest so far of the hundreds that have occurred under La Palma since the volcano’s September 19 eruption.

So far, the earthquakes have either been small enough or far enough under La Palma to do no harm, other than adding to the anxiety of the island residents.

“The scientific committee has been warning for more than a week that we could see earthquakes, given their recent depth of around 12 kilometers and their magnitude, that reach a magnitude of 6,” María José Blanco, director of Spain’s National Geographic Institute on the Canary Islands, told Spanish state broadcaster RTVE.

Flows of molten rock from the Cumbre Vieja volcano itself have caused the evacuations of about 7,500 people and destroyed more than 2,000 buildings, mostly homes. The rivers of lava cover over 900 hectares of farmlands, while one major flow is extending the island into the Atlantic as it cools.

No deaths have resulted from the eruption. Other than in an area on the island’s western side, life continues as normal for La Palma’s 85,000 residents except for having to clean up volcanic ash.