People evacuated from three more towns on the Spanish island of La Palma have been told they will not be able to return to their homes to retrieve their belongings because of the “evolution of the volcanic emergency”.
Rivers of lava raced down the volcano and exploded high into the air on Friday night and the airport was closed as an eruption intensified and entered its most explosive phase so far.
Since it began erupting on Sunday, the Cumbre Vieja volcano has spewed out thousands of tons of lava, destroyed hundreds of houses and forced the evacuation of nearly 6,000 people.
Experts said the volcano had entered a new explosive phase.
“Volcanic surveillance measurements carried out since the beginning of the eruption recorded the highest-energy activity so far during Friday afternoon,” emergency services said in a statement on Friday evening.
The Spanish airport operator Aena said on Saturday the island’s airport had been closed.
“La Palma airport is inoperative due to ash accumulation. Cleaning tasks have started, but the situation may change at any time,” it tweeted.
La Palma, with a population of more than 83,000, is one of an archipelago making up the Canary Islands.
On Friday, firefighters retreated from clean-up work in the town of Todoque, airlines cancelled flights, and authorities evacuated the towns of Tajuya, Tacande de Abajo and the part of Tacande de Arriba that had not already been evacuated after a new vent opened up in the flank of the volcano.
Videos shared on social media showed a massive shock wave emanating from the eruption site on Friday.
No serious injuries or fatalities have been reported in the volcano’s eruption, but about 15% of the island’s economically crucial banana crop could be at risk, jeopardising thousands of jobs.