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Volcanic eruptions subsiding off Canary Islands

By Sinikka Tarvainen


SANTA CRUZ DE TENERIFE, Spain — Undersea volcanic eruptions off the Spanish Canary Island of El Hierro appear to be subsiding, three months after they began, an expert said Tuesday.

There has only been minimal seismic activity for several weeks, Carmen Lopez from the National Geographic Institute told the news agency EFE.

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.

Earthquakes grew in intensity until the first undersea eruption occurred Oct. 10. The island has experienced frequent eruptions since then, with steaming magma bubbling onto the sea surface and a smell of sulfur floating in the air.

The residents of the southern village of La Restinga, which was evacuated several times, have now returned.

However, Lopez and other experts said there was no certainty about when the eruptions would end.

Undersea volcanic eruptions in Japan have sometimes lasted as long as two years, Japanese expert Kenji Nogami said after visiting El Hierro.

The eruptions have done serious damaged the economy of the island of 11,000 residents, which lives largely off tourism and fishing.

All the shops were closed in some villages, and the diving sector had come to a halt, El Hierro administrative chief Alpidio Armas said.

He expressed satisfaction over the central government’s plans to launch a plan for the economic recovery of El Hierro.

The island 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.

The current volcanic process has sparked more than 11,000 earthquakes since July. An oceanographic vessel discovered a 100-metre-high volcano with a 120-meter-diameter crater located at a depth of about 200 meters.

It is thought possible that magma is also breaking through one or two other outlets. Some of the eruptions were observed as close as 1 mile off El Hierro’s southern coast.

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