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Lava blasts out of new vent on La Palma volcano

a man covers his head to protect himself from the falling ash following the eruption of a volcano on the canary island of la palma
A man covers his head to protect himself from the falling ash following the eruption of a volcano on the Canary Island of La Palma, in Los Llanos de Aridane, Spain

Lava flowed from a newly opened crack in the Cumbre Vieja volcano on Spain’s La Palma on Friday, carving a different path down the mountainside from previous flows, and a rain of fine ash forced islanders to don masks and goggles.

A river of red-hot lava snaked downhill from the new fissure, which burst open late on Thursday around 400 metres (1,300 ft) to the north of the primary eruption site.

Multiple vents have opened since the volcano began erupting on Sept. 19 but the Canaries Volcanology Institute described the latest opening as a new “focus of eruption”.

Eduardo Suarez, a volcanologist with Spain’s National Geographic Institute in Tenerife, said it was too early to tell if the new flow would endanger more homes.

A spokesperson for the Canary Islands’ emergency services said no more evacuations had been ordered and the Pevolca emergency volcano committee was evaluating data on the new eruption.

About 6,000 people have been evacuated since the eruption began and are yet to return home. More than 800 buildings including houses, churches and schools have been destroyed.

Residents of Los Llanos de Aridane, one of the worst affected towns, have taken to carrying umbrellas and wearing eye protection as a precaution against the volcanic dust blanketing the streets and floating in the air.

“Last night the ash was irritating my eyes a lot, I had to use eye drops and my skin was stinging,” said Matilde Gonzalez Tavarez, a 45-year-old nursing assistant visiting her mother at a care home in Los Llanos.

“It’s helplessness, fear, insecurity. You don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said, while street cleaners brushed away the carpet of black ash behind her.

Juan Antonio Perez Gonzalez, 56, who runs a floristry business in the town, fears the worst is yet to come.

“I can’t put a good face on it or give you good news because this is a calamity,” he told Reuters. He said many of the townspeople were preparing to pack up and leave.

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