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Earthquakes ease on Spain's La Palma as volcano alert remains

Reuters logo Reuters 9/17/2021 By Borja Suarez
a rocky hill side: A general view of the crater of the San Antonio Volcano on the Canary Island of La Palma © Reuters/BORJA SUAREZ A general view of the crater of the San Antonio Volcano on the Canary Island of La Palma

By Borja Suarez

LA PALMA, Spain (Reuters) - A surge in seismic activity on the Spanish Canary Island of La Palma has slowed in the past day but could return at any moment, authorities said on Friday, as they kept almost half the island's population on yellow alert for an eruption.

a view of a rocky mountain: An aerial view of San Antonio Volcano in the foreground and Teneguia Volcano in the background on the Canary Island of La Palma © Reuters/BORJA SUAREZ An aerial view of San Antonio Volcano in the foreground and Teneguia Volcano in the background on the Canary Island of La Palma

"The decrease in seismic activity may be transient and does not necessarily imply a halt to the reactivation," the regional emergency services said in a statement after a meeting with politicians, volcano experts and civil defence authorities.

a group of people walking on a rocky hill: Tourists walk next to the crater of the San Antonio Volcano on the Canary Island of La Palma © Reuters/BORJA SUAREZ Tourists walk next to the crater of the San Antonio Volcano on the Canary Island of La Palma

Scientists have recorded more than 4,000 tremors in the Cumbre Vieja national park in the south of the island, prompting authorities to declare a yellow alert for eruption on Tuesday, the second of a four-level alert system.

The yellow alert affects some 35,000 people in the regions of Fuencaliente, Los Llanos de Aridane, El Paso y Mazo.

Authorities on Friday advised people in those areas to prepare an emergency backpack with vital supplies and a mobile phone in case an evacuation is ordered.

So-called "earthquake swarms" are common on volcanic island chains such as the Canaries, said Eduardo Suarez, a volcanologist with Spain's National Geographic Institute on neighbouring Tenerife.

a person sitting on top of a mountain: Vulcanologist Dr. Stavros Meletlidis of the Spanish National Geographic Institute inspects a seismic station at the Cumbre Vieja Natural Park in El Paso © Reuters/BORJA SUAREZ Vulcanologist Dr. Stavros Meletlidis of the Spanish National Geographic Institute inspects a seismic station at the Cumbre Vieja Natural Park in El Paso

"What is noteworthy this time is that normally they occur between the crust and the mantle, at a depth of around 20 kilometres...now in some zones they are between 1km-3km from the surface," he said.

More than 11 million cubic metres (388 million cubic feet) of magma have seeped into Cumbre Vieja, around a quarter of the amount expelled during the last major eruption in 1971.

(Reporting by Borja Suarez in La Palma and Nathan Allen in Madrid; Additional reporting by Emma Pinedo; Editing by Alex Richardson)

a man standing on a rocky hill: Tourists take a selfie at the San Antonio Volcano on the Canary Island of La Palma © Reuters/BORJA SUAREZ Tourists take a selfie at the San Antonio Volcano on the Canary Island of La Palma
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