‘We had minutes to pack!’ Thousands of tourists escape La Palma volcano eruption

La Palma: Emergency crews on scene as lava nears buildings

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The 1,000 degree lava has buried and completely destroyed houses on the popular tourist island of La Palma. Swimming pools have been boiled by the deadly flow as it journeys to the sea.

Tourists were left with only minutes to gather their belongings as the eruption wrecked havoc on the island.

Ulrike, a tourist from Hamburg, said: “We were on the beach with nothing but towels and a good book.

“When we wanted to go back to the apartment on Sunday, the police intercepted us at a crossroads.”

The 61-year-old city planner was on a two week break with her husband, Dieter, since September 16.

She said: “We asked the police to be able to get at least the bare minimum. Phones, passport and money were in the room.

“We hadn’t taken anything to the beach because of course we hadn’t expected the eruption.

“We had five minutes to pack our things. We saw columns of smoke behind the complex. Fortunately nothing had been burned yet.”

The couple were taken to disused military barracks with other tourists and local residents.

Ulrika added: “They put us on a bus and drove us to disused barracks. There we were put in double bunk beds.

“About 100 people were there, including some tourists from Germany. The mood was calm, but people were unsettled. Many of the people there had lost everything.”

The couple have now found accommodation nearby. She said: “To experience the outbreak is exciting and depressing at the same time.”

Scientists have warned of potential acid rain and explosions when the toxic lava reaches the sea which is expected to happen soon.

Despite the potential dangers, volcano tourists have travelled to the region to get a closer look at the eruption.

Aaron and Josue from Spain went to watch the volcano and said they were not “afraid” of the dangers.

Josue said: “My parents were told to leave and are now safe. We are staying here and marvel.

“We didn’t sleep a minute last night. But that’s nature. Bigger, stronger and more beautiful than anything humans could ever create.”

The volcano has erupted for the first time in 50 years and the scale of the damage has shocked some experts.

The regional head of Government has estimated the cost of the damage at more than 400 million euros.

After first erupting on Sunday, the volcano has opened a new vent although the flow of lava has slowed.

While the lava initially rolled down the hill towards the sea, at 700 metres per hour, it has now slowed to 200 metres per hour.

Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg. 

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