Volcano on La Palma spews volcanic bombs

The airport on the Spanish island of La Palma closed again Thursday because of ash from a volcano that has been erupting for nearly three weeks. Scientists say the course of the eruption is unpredictable.

It has subsided in recent days, but the volcano in the Canary Islands continues to spew lava, and 16 earthquakes of up to 3.5 magnitude have shaken the area in the previous 24 hours, the National Geographic Institute said.

More than 6,000 people had to be evacuated because of the lava and more than 600 homes were destroyed. Last month, the ash cloud caused the temporary closure of La Palma’s airport.

Officials reported that molten rock from the crater is now flowing through a so-called lava tube beneath the earlier, solidified lava, directly into the sea. This has eased fears that it could spread even wider and cause more destruction.

The German Geosciences Research Center, which sent its team to La Palma, reported that the lava flow is 6,300 meters (6,900 yards) long, more than 1,000 meters (1,100 yards) wide at its widest point, and up to 25 meters (82 feet) thick.

Center volcano researcher Thomas Walter said the situation is still tense and unpredictable.

“It’s too early to tell … how this eruption will develop,” he said in a statement.

Prompt evacuations helped avoid casualties from the eruption, and most of the island of about 85,000 people was unaffected.

The volcanic Canary Islands are located off the northwest coast of Africa.

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