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Volcanic alert raised on La Palma after 400 quakes recorded in just three days 

Parts of La Palma have been put on a volcanic alert following more than 400 seismic movements over the last few days.

Experts say it is unlikely there will be any sort of eruption but have asked residents to be aware of the situation which affects four municipalities in the south of the island. They are all within the so-called radius of the Cumbre Vieja, an active although dormant volcanic ridge on the volcanic ocean island of La Palma, that erupted twice in the 20th century – in 1949, and again in 1971.

The strongest quake registered on Monday registered 3.9 on the Richter scale. It is the first time in eight years that this situation has been declared in the Canary Islands.

A statement issued by the Canary government said: “Given the increase in seismic activity registered on the island of La Palma, the Ministry of Public Administrations, Justice and Security, the Government of the Canary Islands yesterday convened the Scientific Committee of the Special Plan for Civil Protection and Attention to Emergencies due to Volcanic Risk (PEVOLCA) to assess the situation, agreeing to activate this Plan in a situation of Alert for Fuencaliente, Los Llanos de Aridane, El Paso and Mazo and the change of the traffic light from green to yellow for said municipalities.”

“PEVOLCA establishes a volcanic traffic light as an alert system to the population based on four colours depending on the risk. In yellow, information to the population, surveillance measures and monitoring of volcanic and seismic activity are intensified. At the current level, the activity does not imply an increased risk for the population.”

“The Scientific Committee reported that since 2017 an anomalous seismic activity has been recorded in the south of the island of La Palma, which since the summer of 2020 has increased with the occurrence of eight seismic swarms. The last one, which began last Saturday the 11th, has been the most intense, both due to the number of earthquakes located (more than 400 until yesterday morning), and because of its magnitude, the largest being felt by the population. In addition, the Committee indicated that the depth of the earthquakes, which until now had oscillated between 20-30 km, has decreased to 12 km during this swarm. Regarding the geochemical monitoring of volcanic gases, it highlighted that the Helium-3 emission data recorded confirm the magmatic character of this process, registering the highest value observed in the last 30 years.”

“Due to all of the above, the Committee recommended to the Plan Directorate the change of the volcanic traffic light from green to yellow in the Cumbre Vieja area, and it cannot be ruled out that the seismic activity felt in the coming days will intensify, depending on the evolution.”

“From this moment on, the monitoring of the phenomenon is increased and any significant change will be communicated. The population must remain attentive to the information provided by the Civil Protection authorities.”

La Palma’s emergency councillor, Nieves Rosa Arroyo called for “tranquility”, saying it is a “preventive yellow alert” but warned all residents “to be aware of what we say at all times” in case there is any variation on the stage.

The regional government also posted a statement, saying: “The yellow traffic light does not imply an increased risk for the population. We ask citizens to only inform themselves through official sources of information.”