This week we’re concentrating on one news story concerning the events related to the seismic activity and subsequent undersea volcanic eruption on the Canary Island of El Hierro.
Last week we reported that scientists had stated that the centre of volcanic activity was moving towards the sea. Yesterday morning reports started to appear online about an undersea eruption off the coast of El Hierro.
Surprisingly, there have been little or no reports about the eruption which took place around 4am on Monday in the British press; possibly because few have connected El Hierro’s proximity to Tenerife yet. If, and when, that happens there’s a possibility some publications will seek to sensationalise events and fabricate an ‘impact on tourists” element to the story as they did with the Tenerife fires of 2007. To pre-empt this and to re-assure anyone planning a trip to Tenerife or any of the Canary Islands here is a summary of what actually happened according to eyewitness and official reports.
Events Leading up to the Volcanic Eruption at El Hierro
First of all let’s get the information that many visitors will want to know out of the way. The Canarian Government has stated that there is no risk of danger to the people living on El Hierro. There is certainly no risk to Tenerife as the volcanic activity leading up to the eruption is centred only on El Hierro.
Yesterday morning a Spanish newspaper posted a report, following an earth tremor on Saturday that registered 4.3 on the Richter scale, that earthquakes reaching up to 5 on the Richter scale could be expected. Bizarrely the article was accompanied by a photo of the ex-president of El Hierro and a couple of friends laughing as though someone had shared a joke. It was clearly meant to reassure, especially as the ex-president quipped about where else in the world can you swim near the epicentre of an earthquake.
A couple of hours later and reports started to be published on the internet of the crew of four boats claiming there had been an undersea eruption near The Canary Islands” most westerly isle. This was followed by further reports of helicopters patrolling the waters off El Hierro’s coastline.
Shortly afterwards, the mayor of Frontera on El Hierro backed up the news reports, claiming there had been an eruption about 4 kilometres off the south coast of El Hierro but there was still no official government statement to confirm this claim.
The first official confirmation that a “process of eruptive activity’ had taken place came in a Canarian Government press release issued just after 4pm which stated that although the IGN (National Geographic Institute) couldn’t confirm an eruption had occurred, they could confirm gases and volcanic fluids had been released from the seabed.
Confusion ensued for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening as various scientific bodies debated whether there had been an eruption or not with contradictory theories appearing online together with eyewitness reports of hundreds of dead fish floating belly up in the vicinity of the eruption.
Current Volcanic Situation at El Hierro
The confusion was cleared up just before 11pm on Monday night with another official press release confirming that an undersea eruption had indeed taken place about 5 kilometres off the south coast of El Hierro at a depth of around 1 kilometre which had resulted in the death of the fish spotted on the surface.
According to the report, deformation of the land and seismic activity has decreased since the eruption, although further tremors have not been ruled out; the latest tremor, registering 2.3 occurred at 6am Tuesday morning.
The report was very clear that the volcanic activity represented no risk to islanders on El Hierro.
Although a yellow alert remains in place, the Los Roquillos tunnel on El Hierro which has been closed over the last couple of weeks is expected to reopen today and the remaining sixteen people who had been evacuated from their homes due to risk of rockfall should be finally able to return home tonight. Similarly fishing and diving, apart from in an exclusion zone immediately around the location of the eruption, have been given the green light to continue as normal.
These developments suggest that, although some experts expect there may be another volcanic release, the authorities appear confident that the greatest risk may have passed. However there will be another meeting later today to reassess the situation.
At the moment all appears calm on the island of El Hierro and Tenerife Magazine will continue to keep our readers up to date with any developments in relation to the volcanic activity.
Image: Record of earth tremors on El Hierro from IGN website.