MADRID – A 4.5-magnitude earthquake shook La Palma in Spain’s Canary Islands, recording the strongest tremor recorded since the start of volcanic eruptions 26 days ago, officials said on Thursday.
Spain’s National Institute of Geography said the quake was one of nearly 60 earthquakes recorded overnight as the Cumbre Vieja volcano continued to spew rivers of fiery lava that destroyed everything in their path and spilled molten rock into the Atlantic Ocean.
Officials said the lava had partially or completely destroyed more than 1,600 buildings, about half of which were homes, but emergency evacuations had prevented any deaths so far. About 7,000 people were forced to leave their homes, 300 of them on Thursday.
“This is definitely the most serious eruption in Europe in the last 100 years,” said Ángel Víctor Torres, President of the Canary Islands.
“The only good news is… no one has been injured so far,” he said.
The La Palma government said the flow from the three rivers of molten rock had widened to just over a mile, but their progress had slowed.
While most of la Palma was unaffected, the hard, black lava covered 1,665 acres on the western side of the island, officials said.
Authorities advised locals not to travel by car, as the volcanic ash reached their ankles in some places. The volcano’s plume was about 8,500 feet high on Thursday.
La Palma is part of Spain’s Canary Islands, an Atlantic Ocean archipelago in northwest Africa whose economy depends on tourism and the cultivation of the Canarian banana.