A volcano erupted on the Spanish island of La Palma on Sunday, spewing lava and a thick column of smoke and forcing authorities to evacuate hundreds of residents from nearby towns.
The eruption was the first in 50 years on La Palma, a famous tourist destination in the Canary Islands. The Canary Islands are located in the Atlantic Ocean, off the northwestern coast of Africa.
Spain’s military said on Sunday that it would evacuate between 5,000 and 10,000 residents of villages on the edge of La Cumbre Vieja national park, as flowing lava and fires neared the surrounding farms and homes.
Firefighters and emergency personnel were dispatched from the archipelago’s larger islands, Tenerife and Gran Canaria, and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez postponed a planned trip to New York for the United Nations General Assembly. Instead, Mr. Sánchez spent Sunday in La Palma with members of the military’s national emergency response team.
The volcano erupted around 3:15 p.m., dramatically belching lava into the air and sending fiery rivers of molten lava down its sides. Scientists had warned an eruption was imminent following days of increased seismic activity in the area, including a magnitude 3.8 earthquake.
La Palma is one of the smallest Canary Islands, with a population of 85,000 people. The last major eruption on La Palma occurred in October 1971 and lasted more than three weeks. One person died as a result of the eruption, a tourist who inhaled toxic vapors while attempting to admire the lava.