The Canary Islands Volcanology Institute recorded the first eruption at the island's southern end. It was the last eruption of the volcano in 1971. Scientists had been watching the Cumbre Vieja volcanic Ridge closely for molten lava accumulation below the surface and small earthquakes.
Although authorities evacuated more than 1,000 people immediately, the Civil Guard of Spain stated that it could need to evacuate as many as 10,000 residents.
La Palma is home to 85,000 people and is one of eight volcanic islands off Africa's west coast in Spain's Canary Islands archipelago. The islands are located 100 km (60 miles) away from Morocco at their closest point.
Before the eruption, a 4.2-magnitude earthquake was recorded in the area called Cabeza de Vaca. It took place on the western slope of the ridge that descends to the coast. At least two large open mouths released bright red magma to the atmosphere, which then flowed down the mountain slope.
One black lava flow, with a burning tip, rushed towards El Paso shortly after the initial explosion. Sergio Rodriguez, Mayor, stated that 300 people were in immediate danger and had to be evacuated. Roads were also closed and authorities advised the curious not too approach the area.
Some homes were eventually affected by the lava, and at least one tower-topped chalet was destroyed. Authorities warned that lava flows could also pose a threat to El Paraiso, Alcala, and the surrounding municipalities.
Carlota Martin was on an agricultural plot that her family owns in Todoque when she heard a loud explosion.
She told The Associated Press that she and her husband saw the smoke column, but they were skeptical. "But it continued growing, so we knew we had got to get out," she said. You leave but also look back to see what's next. Although no one knows what the lava flows are going to do, our plot and many other houses could be at risk.
Mariano Hernandez, President of La Palma Island, stated that there are no immediate reports of injuries or deaths, but that lava flows have made him more concerned about the "populated areas along the coast".
Hernandez stated that people should be careful not to get too close to the volcano where the lava flows. We are experiencing serious problems with evacuation due to the congestion of people trying to reach it.
Itahiza Dominguez is the head of seismology at Spain's National Geology Institute. She told Canary Islands Television it was too soon to predict how long this eruption will last. However, previous eruptions on the Canary Islands have lasted weeks, or even months.
La Palma's last eruption was 50 years ago. It lasted for just three weeks. In 2011, the last eruption of all the Canary Islands was underwater off El Hierro Island. It lasted for five months.
Vicente Soler, a Spanish Volcanologist, stated that "the material appears very fluid, and the lava flows will eventually reach the sea sooner than expected." A scientific committee from the Volcano Risk Prevention Plan warned that part of the island's southwest coast was vulnerable to landslides or rock falls.
Pedro Sanchez, the Spanish Prime Minister, cancelled his trip to New York for the U.N. General Assembly to travel from Spain's mainland and to the Canary Islands.