La Palma volcano: Three more towns evacuated and firefighters forced to retreat amid intensifying volcanic explosions

24 September 2021, 15:01 | Updated: 25 September 2021, 15:56

Three more towns have been evacuated and firefighters have been forced to retreat amid intensifying volcanic explosions on the island of La Palma in the Canaries.

Authorities ordered the evacuation of the towns of Tajuya, Tacande de Abajo and the part of Tacande de Arriba that had not already been evacuated due to the eruption which began on Sunday.

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

Firefighters also retreated from the town of Todoque due to the growing intensity of volcanic explosions and a "high presence of ash", the fire service said on Twitter.

Crews had been leading clean-up efforts in the area when a new vent opened up in the flank of the volcano, with videos on social media showing a massive shockwave emanating from the site of the eruption.

"The volcano is in a newly explosive phase... firefighters will not operate anymore today," said the Tenerife fire service, which has been deployed to help on La Palma.

The volcano erupted five days ago and has since destroyed nearly 400 buildings, including many homes, on the western side of the island of 85,000 people.

Almost 7,000 people have had to flee their properties amid loud explosions, a large cloud of ash and a cracked fissure that has spewed out more lava.

The ash cloud, which rose around two-and-a-half miles into the sky, forced regional airline Binter to cancel flights into and out of the island.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said he and ministers plan to declare La Palma a "catastrophic zone" and provide aid to those affected.

No casualties have been yet been reported, which some say is due to the speed of the evacuations.

Spain's National Geographic Institute recorded 1,130 earthquakes in the area over the past week - but said it had not registered any in the past 24 hours.

In a more positive sign, the advance of the main river of lava towards the sea slowed to one metre per hour.

The two main lava flows are at least 33ft high at their leading edges and have decimated homes, farmland and infrastructure in their path.

The molten rock has blocked nine miles of roads, covering over 440 acres.