A steaming pyramid of black rock has emerged from the Atlantic waves off the coast of the Canary island of La Palma after lava from the volcanic eruption, which began 10 days ago, finally reached the sea late on Tuesday.
The eruption – which began on 19 September on the Cumbre Vieja ridge, one of the most active volcanic regions in the archipelago – has destroyed more than 650 properties, forced the evacuation of more than 6,000 people, and devastated La Palma’s banana plantations.
Among the properties consumed by the lava was the so-called miracle house that had managed to hold out against the flows, and which was pictured in media reports around the world.
On Tuesday, its owners, Ranier Cocq and Inge Bergedorf, confirmed that it had not managed to withstand the volcanic onslaught.
“Everything’s been destroyed,” Cocq told El Mundo. “We’ve lost everything on our beloved island. It’s very sad.”
Juan Tomás Vázquez, a marine geologist aboard a research vessel stationed just off the coast, said the “lava delta” was extending the island to the west.
Three coastal villages remained locked down on Wednesday as a precaution against explosions and possible gas clouds, and everyone in a 2km (one-mile) radius around the town of Tazacorte.
Although La Palma’s governing council said the air remained “perfectly breathable” residents were told to stay at home for the time being.
“Until we have a definitive result that guarantees these areas are not at risk, the lockdown will remain,” said María José Blanco of the Pevolca eruption task force.
Ángel Víctor Torres, the regional president of the Canary islands, said his government was working to rehouse all those who had lost their homes, and planned to buy 100 currently unoccupied properties.
Torres said that one village, Todoque – which was home to 1,400 people – had been wiped out.
Spain has formally classified La Palma a disaster zone in order to begin the process of providing financial support to help the island and its 85,000 inhabitants recover from the first volcanic eruption since 1971.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report