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Spanish Shilling

Some stories and experiences after a lifetime spent in Spain

Jeepers! Head for the Hills!
21 September 2021 @ 12:21

The American embassy has sent out a warning: ‘News media report volcanic eruptions have occurred in La Palma, Canary Islands. Evacuations are underway in Cabeza de Vaca and El Paraiso. There are reports of ensuing forest fires as well. U.S. citizens are advised to monitor local news and government websites for detailed information, including precautions to take and possible evacuation instructions’. There’s a satellite map, here.

The Canary Islands are a long way from the Spanish mainland, being in the Atlantic Ocean some 600kms off the Western Sahara. In the improbable event that the eruptions turn the island of Palma into an explosive Karakatoa, the resulting tsunami (says a concerned article at the NZ Herald) where ‘…anywhere between 150 and 500 cubic kilometres of rock could slide into the ocean at 100 metres per second…’, adding, ‘The immense force caused by such a landslide would generate huge waves, hundreds of metres high, that would spread across the Atlantic and hit the coast of the Americas at heights of up to 25 metres…’. Concentrating more on the American East Coast than elsewhere, a 2008 clip from The BBC on YouTube explains what could – conceivably – happen. Another (better) hair-raising video from Naked Science, with the notable quote ‘…It’s a new-born baby island, barely passed its four millionth birthday…’, can be seen on YouTube here. Both British-made documentaries appear to be more concerned with the US than with Europe (or even the UK). Even the ABC is more worried about Manhattan than it is about Cádiz.

Shades of Hollywood’s Roland Emmerich and his disaster film ‘2012’.

The tidal wave reaching Spain – at least the Atlantic coast, would apparently be less severe and the tight entrance into the Mediterranean would stop anything much more than a heavy sea rising a few metres inland.

Volcanic eruptions are quite rare and can be dangerous – as the good people of Pompeii found out – briefly – to their cost (although the current tremblers in Yellowstone could herald something better described as catastrophic). However, Spanish volcanologists say the chance of such a scenario is infinitesimal. The Olive Press also looks at the rank improbability of a mega-tsunami here

In all, the likelihood is that the Palma eruption could continue for some time and, as the TV whimsically noted on Monday, the lava flowing into the sea will fortuitously cause the island to grow in size (!).

We read in El País in English that ‘The president of the island council, Mariano Hernández Zapata, called the scene ‘devastating’ given that the molten rock ‘is literally eating up the houses, infrastructure and crops’ on its path toward the coast’.

As the island of La Palma – really just a small portion of it – is in eruption, and everyone who lives or in holidaying nearby are hurrying across the hills to catch a glimpse of the treat (except of course the Americans), the President of Spain passed up a formal visit to the UN to meet instead with the startled neighbours while the Minister of Tourism is looking into the possibilities of making the new volcano a tourist attraction.

Meanwhile, to keep us on our toes, Sicily’s Mount Etna has just erupted.

Not that it’s necessarily happening at all, mind – some negacionistas reckon it’s a fake.

(Written from the top of the Sierra Nevada with a handy scuba suit and a tin hat)  



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1 Comments


animate said:
22 September 2021 @ 15:59

The possible La Palma landslide has been covered on several TV programmes and this eruption should be a wake up call to the US. It really could happen, and if it does, the eight hours warning will be nowhere near enough time to evacuate all the east coast of America. Let's hope it doesn't happen, and let's hope everybody realises that it's not if, but when.

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