La Palma reopens airports but no flights as volcano still erupting

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The airport on the Spanish island of La Palma reopened on Sunday although all flights were cancelled as the volcano spewed lava and emitted ash clouds over the surrounding area a week after it began erupting.

People used umbrellas to protect themselves from falling volcanic cash, while the airport’s departures hall was quiet and boards showed only cancelled flights.

“They laugh at us because of the umbrella but if we don’t use it we end up covered in ash,” said engineer Waldo Nasco.

Experts said on Sunday there were two active lava flows, one fast-moving flow to the north and a slower one to the south.

“We have a flow to the north that is moving quickly… this lava comes from more interior areas of the crater and its temperature is about 1,250 degrees [Celsius],” said Miguel Angel Morcuende, director of volcano response committee Pevolca, told a news conference on Sunday.

Reuters drone footage showed a rapid river of red hot lava flowing down the slopes of the crater, passing close to homes, and swathes of land and buildings engulfed by a black mass of slower-moving, older lava.

Lava destroyed the village church in Todoque on Sunday afternoon, its bell tower crumbling under the flow. It narrowly escaped earlier in the week when lava stopped just short of the church.

Morcuende said people who had been evacuated from Tacande de Arriba, Tacande de Abajo and Tajuya would be able to return to their homes.

Spain’s airport operator Aena said the airport had reopened after teams cleared ash off the runway. But Binter, the Canary Island airline said it would not allow flights today because of the conditions.

“The ash cloud originating from the volcanic eruption makes it necessary to maintain the temporary stoppage of flights to La Palma… The flights scheduled for today have been cancelled,” it said in a statement, adding flights would be halted until conditions allowed them to take place safely.