La Palma death may be first fatality attributed to volcano
Smoke and ash towered into the sky over La Palma, Spain, as Cumbre Vieja Volcano continued to erupt on Nov. 12. The volcano has destroyed more than 2,600 structures since it began erupting in September.
Nearly two months after first erupting, the Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma, one of Spain's Canary Islands, has claimed a life. A 72-year-old man was found dead on Saturday in the municipality of El Paso after a roof he was attempting to clean collapsed, according to elDiario, a Spanish online newspaper.
Local officials say this death occurred in the exclusion zone, an area that is off-limits to the public without express permission, and is likely the first fatality that can be tied directly to the impacts of this year's volcanic eruption.
The man entered the exclusion zone on Friday with a volunteer crew authorized by the Civil Guard to clean ash from their homes, according to elDiario. After failing to return from the excursion, the man's family reported him missing Friday night.
A search was mounted for the man on Saturday and his body was ultimately discovered when a drone spotted a hole in a roof of a home, elDiaro reported.
Officials are investigating the cause of death, but early indications show that the man likely climbed to the roof of the home to clear ash when the roof collapsed, according to reports from Diario AS.
The Cumbre Vieja Volcano first began erupting on Sept. 19, and has not shown any signs of stopping. Over 7,000 people have been forced to evacuate since the ordeal first began, according to The Associated Press.
Up until last week, despite weeks of eruptions, no fatalities had been attributed to the volcano. This impressive feat is likely due to a combination of proactive evacuation efforts put in place by local agencies and a strict exclusion zone.
While up until Friday there had been no deaths, there have been several injuries on the island as a result of the volcano's impacts. According to the La Palma police and fire service, since the eruption in September, there have been several accidents in which people fell from buildings while attempting to clean volcanic ash.
Volcanic ash is very heavy and can lead to roof collapses. A layer of dry volcanic ash 4 inches (10 cm) thick weighs 13-22 pounds per square foot (40-70 kilograms per square meter), according to the United States Geological Survey. This weight could double when the ash is wet.
Volcanic ash buildup has also disrupted operations at the La Palma Airport on multiple occasions in the last several weeks, according to Reuters. In early October, the airport was closed for an entire day as the runway was caked with ash and dust.
Time-lapse video shows an ash cloud forming over the Cumbre Vieja volcano on Friday, Oct. 15.
Since September, the eruption has covered about 2,515 acres (1,018 hectares) of land and led to the destruction of more than 2,600 buildings, according to Copernicus Emergency Management Service, which provides mapping products based on satellite imagery.
Lava from the eruption has also spilled into the Atlantic Ocean and created nearly 100 acres (40 hectares) of new land, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Adam Douty.
Earlier in October, the eruption created a phenomenon called gravity wave clouds as it sent a plume of hot gas high into the atmosphere.
AccuWeather forecasters say that no major periods of stormy weather are expected to impact the Canary Islands through at least midweek. This lack of significant disturbed weather will likely be an asset to crews attempting to stay ahead of the active Cumbre Vieja volcano.
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