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Dormant volcano for 50 years comes back to life

Following the volcanic eruption on La Palma in the Spanish Canary Islands, hundreds of homes were damaged and thousands of people were forced to flee their homes.

Lava reaches the sea, creates fear of toxic gas being released

The eruption of the volcano Cumbre Vieja on La Palma island happened on the 19th of September and has yet to stop, forcing more than 6,000 people to evacuate and destroying 656 homes. This volcano last erupted 50 years ago and lasted just over three weeks.

Lava flowed down the mountain of Cumbre Vieja and through the villages of El Paraiso and Todoque, causing huge damage especially to the island's banana plantations, where the crops account for 50% of the island's economy. Farmers are attempting to save banana, avocado, and grape crops - which many residents rely on for a living - before the lava reaches them. EU's Copernicus estimates that the lava burned more than 268 hectares (662 acres) of land. The President of the Canary Islands (where La Palma is located) Ángel Víctor Torres said the estimated cost of damage has exceeded €400 Million ($466m).

The lava flow reached the sea 10 days after its eruption, raising concerns about the release of toxic gases. When lava comes in contact with ocean water, it produces laze - lava and haze, which is formed through a series of chemical reactions. "It creates a steam of hydrochloric acid, water vapor and bits of ash. Obviously, it's not good to breathe in," said science journalist and volcanologist Dr Robin George Andrews. He also said that laze can cause eye, lung and skin irritation, but shouldn't be a problem is residents keep their distance.

An exclusion zone was set around the lava, including in the sea, to keep people away from potential danger, and Spain's Department of Homeland Security advised people to keep a distance of 3.5 km. The Canary Islands Volcano Institute suggested that the ongoing eruptions could last between 24-84 days. La Palma has been declared a disaster zone by the Spanish government, which has promised financial assistance to all those affected.

Fake and misleading information about how the volcanic eruption would cause a megatsunami that would hit the East Coast of the US, Mexico and Brazil has been spread throughout social media, causing unnecessary panic to many. According to experts, even with the volcano's eruption reaching the sea, the chances of it causing a megatsunami are slim to none.

This fake information is a decade-old theory that resurfaced online by many social media users. While the theory does exist, social media users are presenting it as if it was a likely scenario or has an expert consensus. This theory has been debunked by many experts and explained that for it to happen, multiple unlikely scenarios would have to occur. There are many people who cannot tell what news is fake and what news is real, and spreading misinformation will simply create confusion and panic.


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