BREAKING NEWS: Canary Islands Evacuation Underway due to volcano!

Fears are growing that the El Hierro volcano in The Canary Islands could soon erupt after seismic activity beneath the island increased dramatically during Tuesday and Wednesday.

Over 150 earthquakes were recorded on the smallest of the Canary Islands during Tuesday prompting officials to evacuate some local residents, shut El Hierro’s main tunnel, and close local schools.

At least 20 earthquakes, exceeding magnitude 3.0 on the Richter Scale, have been felt by local residents during the last 24 hours. The most recent earthquake, which measured 3.4 magnitude, was recorded just off the southern tip of the island at 07:04 am Wednesday.

The rise in seismic activity last night prompted the Spanish Civil Guard (Guardia Civil) to advise almost 50 residents of the municipality of La Frontera to leave their homes because of landslide fears.

Plans are also underway to evacuate more of the island’s 10,000 residents, according to Canarias7.es. The newspaper reported that two units of the Spanish military’s emergency intervention unit (EMU) will depart nearby island Tenerife this afternoon to assist in the possible evacuation of hundreds of El Hierro residents.

Meanwhile, the island’s main tunnel (Tunel del Golfo), which links Frontera to Valverde, has been shut forcing motorists to travel across the 280-sq-km island via a mountain road. The Cabildo de El Hierro also has ordered the closure of schools on Wednesday.

Hierro, a shield volcano, has had a single historic eruption from the Volcan de Lomo Negro vent in 1793. The eruption lasted approximately one month and produced lava flows.

The Canary Islands Government commenced an in-depth geological survey of El Hierro earlier this month in an effort to determine the source of an earthquake swarm. The Government raised the volcanic risk level to ‘Yellow’ on Sunday, the highest alert status since an unprecedented earthquake swarm commenced in mid-July.

The unprecedented seismic activity commenced on 19 July (the activity was first reported by iWeather Online on 26 July). In excess of 8,200 earthquakes have been recorded up to Wednesday, 28 September 2011.

Up to last weekend, the majority of earth tremors ranged between 1 and 3 magnitude. However, the majority of quakes are now registering between 2 and 4 magnitude and are occuring at depth of 14-17 kilometres, according to the National Geographic Institute (IGN).

Speaking to the El Pais newspaper, volcanologist Juan Carlos Carracedo suggested that an eruption on El Hierro would “not be a major surprise”. He explained: “It is the youngest of the Canary Islands. There is a ball of magma which is rising to the surface and it is stationed at the limit of the earth’s crust. At the moment we do not know if that ball of magna will break the crust and cause an eruption.”

IGN Director, María José Blanco said that any eruption on El Hierro would most likely have a “low explosion value”. He added that an imminent eruption is unlikely.

In the meantime, the frequent and increasingly intense earthquakes being felt throughout El Hierro are unlikely to appease the residents of and visitors to the tiny island.