Tenerife volcano warning: La Palma ash threatens flights to Brit hotspot – planes diverted

La Palma volcano spews lava as it continues to erupt

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The arrival of ash from the La Palma volcano island of Tenerife in the last few hours has led to some airlines stopping flights to Tenerife North Airport – and divert their equipment to Tenerife South, according to AENA sources. Reporting of the ash particles in the air, AEMET_Canaries Tweeted: “Ash samples and Volcano at Santa Cruz de Tenerife Observatory and ash cloud already flying over the city.”

Binter Airlines, a regional operator serving the area, Tweeted about the decision to divert.

“Operations with La Palma continue to be suspended until 1pm tomorrow -October 9. We are assessing the situation in order to resume operations when it is safe to do so,” said the airline.

Elsewhere, La Palma airport remains out of service, while Tenerife North is operational, yet airlines are choosing to avoid it.

Flights to La Palma have been suspended since Wednesday afternoon, meaning most inter-island travel is being done by sea.

The Canary Island public television has published several images sent by people from Cuesta de Piedra and Las Mercedes, in the north of Tenerife, in which ash can clearly be seen.

The volcano has been spewing out jets of red-hot lava for than two weeks now, laying waste to hundreds of buildings, homes and farms, and forcing the evacuation of thousands of residents in the process.

In 2010, most of the airspace around Europe became closed due to an eruption in Iceland, the now famous Eyjafjakkajökull, which caused billions of euros in lost revenue for airlines.

Adding to the catastrophic natural disaster, a 4.3 magnitude earthquake struck the island due to the volcano impacting the seismic activity and stability around the area.

The shake hit at a depth of 35km, and is one of the biggest recorded.

Sixteen smaller quakes occurred overnight as the subterranean land resettled.

Amid concerns the shakes could open up new pores for the volcano to erupt from, the technical director of the Canary Island’s emergency volcano response department, Miguel Angel Morcuende, said: “Right now we have no data making us think that a new emission point could open up.”

He went on to say: “We’re not seeing any further land uplift, and that’s positive news.”

However, striking a clear warning due to the unpredictable nature of such events, Mr Morcuende concluded: “What is said about today, may not be valid for tomorrow.”

The Spanish government has pledged 206 million euros in aid for those affected by the volcano, including those who have lost their homes and livelihoods.

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With up to 16,000 tons of sulphur dioxide being thrown into the atmosphere since the eruption, this gas, combined with dust and wind from the Sahara Desert have been reported reaching as far away as Puerto Rico.

Although planes flying through ash clouds aren’t necessarily at immediate risk of engine failure, they can be over time.

Jacques Renvier, the technical director at French engine maker Snecma, said: “Volcanic ash fragments are just a few millimetres wide, very hard and very sharp. They can get inside the engine and other parts of the place and wear away everything they come into contact with.”

The eventual build up ash particles in the engine will over time cause the engine to block-out from a lack of air flow and overheating, which can lead to an engine failure, shut down or fire.

No plane crashes to date have ever been reported to be down to volcanic ash, although there have been a few near misses, in case, a Boeing 747 losing all four engines en route from Kuala Lumpur to Perth.

The plane landed safely as the Captain descended and managed to restart engines after reaching 13,000 feet.

Additional Reporting by Maria Ortega

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