Is it safe to travel to Tenerife? How La Palma volcano affects travel to Canary Islands - and FCO advice

According to the Canary Islands Volcanology Institute, the after effects of the eruption could last for months

The airport on the Spanish Island of La Palma has been forced to close after a second volcanic vent opened, spreading ash across the island.

Flights to and from La Palma have been cancelled as a result of the ash cloud spewing from the volcanic eruption that has lasted a week.

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Lava flowed down the slopes of the volcano and flew high into the air after the new vent opened on Saturday (25 September).

What has the airport said?

La Palma Airport operator Aena said on Twitter that plane traffic was suspended “due to the accumulation of ash” in the air.

However, holidaymakers have been assured that other airports in the Canary Islands are still in operation.

The airport wrote: At this time, La Palma airport is inoperative due to ash accumulation.

"The rest of the Canarian airports are still operating.

There are airlines that are suspending their flights in La Palma, La Gomera, Tenerife Norte and Tenerife Sur."

When did the volcanic eruption start?

The Cumbre Vieja volcano erupted on Sunday 19 September for the first time in 50 years.

The intensity of the eruption caused a 3.8 magnitude earthquake on Monday 20 September, causing a crack to open on the slope of the volcano, after which a stream of lava began pouring out.

Mandatory evacuation orders were issued for several villages, including El Paso and Los Llanos Aridane, with around 7,000 people forced to leave their homes and around 190 houses destroyed due to powerful rivers of lava, up to six metres high. According to the Canary Islands Volcanology Institute, the lava now covers 154 hectares.

Officials have said that thanks to quick evacuations there has been no casualties, although damage to homes, infrastructure and farmland is significant.

A spokesperson for the ferry operator Fred Olsen said that around 360 tourists were additionally evacuated following the eruption and taken to Tenerife on Monday (20 September).

Experts from the volcanology institute have said that the aftermath of the eruption could last for up to 84 days. Residents could continue to be at risk of earthquakes, lava flows, toxic gases, volcanic ash and acid rain.

Authorities have also warned that when the lava makes contact with the sea, explosions could occur and produce toxic gases.

The institute also added that the volcano has been emitting between 8,000 and 10,500 tons of sulfur dioxide every day.

The American Lung Association states that “sulfur dioxide causes a range of harmful effects on the lungs” and that “continued exposure at high levels increases respiratory symptoms and reduces the ability of the lungs to function”.

Can I travel to Tenerife?

The Tenerife Tourist Office has said that “what is happening in La Palma has no impact on Tenerife”, and pointed out that the two territories are separated by 140 kilometres of ocean.

It added that “in any event, the situation on the island of La Palma is completely under control by the authorities” and that the island’s airport remains “open and safe”.

The tourism office continued: “There are no people at risk and the procedure for evacuating tourist accommodation and residences is fully operational, with the aim being that all the residents and visitors will have accommodation available to stay out of any type of danger.

“The Canary Islands is a volcanic territory which has access to scientific and technological instruments and personnel of the highest quality to react early to any situation such as that which has occurred.

“Despite the extraordinary natural phenomenon we are experiencing, we therefore repeat that there is no danger to human life.”

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) also is not actively recommending against visiting the Canary Islands.

The FCDO site says: “On Sunday 19 September 2021, at approximately 15.15 local time, there was a volcanic eruption on the Spanish Canary Island of La Palma. The immediate areas of Los Llanos de Aridane, Tazacorte and El Paso have been evacuated.

“If you are in an affected area you should follow the advice of local authorities, including social media updates from Cabildo de La Palma. If you are planning to travel to the island imminently you are encouraged to contact your tour operators/airlines.”

No flights between the UK and the Canary Islands have been cancelled yet, although La Palma’s airport in Santa Cruz closed for around an hour on Sunday 19 September during the immediate aftermath of the eruption.

According to the Independent, airline operator Tui, which offers direct flights from the UK to La Palma, said: “Currently we don’t have any affected flights, however we will continue to monitor the situation closely and will contact customers should their holiday be impacted.”

Speaking to Canal Sur radio, Spanish Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto encouraged tourists to continue to visit the island.

She said: “There are no restrictions on going to the island. On the contrary, we’re passing on the information so tourists know they can travel to the island and enjoy something unusual, see it for themselves.”

However, her comments have not been well received by everyone.

Conservative MP Teodoro García Egea tweeted: “Can someone confirm the minister said that while hundreds of people are losing everything they have?”

What traffic light colour is Spain - and what are the rules?

Currently, Spain, including the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands (Formentera, Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca) are on the amber travel list.

If you’re returning to England from an amber list country, you must take a Covid-19 test in the three days before returning, book and pay for Covid-19 tests to be taken after arrival, and complete a passenger locator form.

Once you arrive in England, your course of action differs slightly depending on whether or not you’re fully vaccinated.

If you are fully vaccinated, you must take a Covid-19 test on or before day two after arrival.

If you’re not fully vaccinated yet, you’ll need to quarantine for 10 days upon arrival in England, and take a Covid-19 test on or before day two and on or before day eight.

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