Friday, November 18, 2011
Steaming magma is bubbling onto the sea surface. The earth shakes, and a smell of sulphur floats in the air.
For over a month, residents of the Spanish Canary Island of El Hierro have lived with an active underwater volcano that not only poses a security threat, but also scares off tourists and endangers the inhabitants' livelihoods.
Volcanic eruptions could continue for weeks, civil protection science representative Carmen Lopez said this week.
However, the situation has been deemed safe enough for the 550 evacuated residents of the fishing village of La Restinga to return home, though the island was still being hit by earthquakes.
The earth began trembling on El Hierro on July 19, in a sign that magma was rising towards the surface of the smallest Canary Island.
The island of 11,000 residents has a large volcano and more than 250 craters. But its volcanic power had been dormant for centuries, with the last eruption reported in 1793.
El Hierro has now experienced more than 11,000 earthquakes since July. The vast majority were not noticed by the population, but grew in intensity.
Dozens of people were evacuated for fear of rockslides in September, and an army unit was put on standby to help in the event of a mass evacuation.
An underwater eruption occurred on October 10, following an earthquake of a magnitude greater than 4. Scientists observing seismic activity confirmed the eruption. Dead fish were seen floating on the water.
Volcanic activity has since continued intermittently, with witnesses reporting jets of gas and ash spewing several metres above sea level.
The eruptions have sent a large volume of greenish magma spilling into the sea. Read More
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