A volcano erupted Sunday on the Spanish island of La Palma, spewing lava and a thick column of smoke and prompting the authorities to evacuate thousands of residents from nearby towns.
The eruption was the first in 50 years on La Palma, a resort island in the Canary archipelago popular with visitors from northern Europe. The Canary Islands are in the Atlantic Ocean, off the northwestern coast of Africa.
Spain’s military said on Sunday that it would evacuate between 5,000 and 10,000 residents of villages on the edge of La Cumbre Vieja national park, as flowing lava and fires neared the surrounding farms and homes.
Firefighters and emergency workers were being sent from the archipelago’s larger islands, Tenerife and Gran Canaria, and Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of Spain delayed a planned trip to New York ahead of the United Nations General Assembly. Instead, Mr. Sánchez joined members of the military’s national emergency response unit on Sunday in La Palma.
The volcano erupted around 3:15 p.m., dramatically belching lava into the air and sending fiery rivers of molten lava down its sides. Scientists had warned an eruption was imminent following days of increased seismic activity in the area, including a magnitude 3.8 earthquake.
Home to about 85,000 residents, La Palma is one of the smallest Canary Islands. The previous most recent eruption on La Palma began in October 1971 and lasted more than three weeks. That eruption killed one person, a tourist who died after inhaling toxic gases while trying to admire the lava.