Los Llanos de Aridane, Spain – The Canary island airport of La Palma reopened on Sunday after a 24-hour closure because of ash emanating from the Cumbre Vieja volcano, but flights remained suspended until conditions improve, operators said.
A clean-up operation was carried out overnight, the airport management company AENA tweeted, adding that flights would be able to resume with the “prior agreement” of air traffic control authorities.
But Spanish carrier Binter said on Sunday afternoon that its flights to and from La Palma on the Canary island were still suspended.
“We are maintaining the temporary stoppage of flights at La Palma until conditions allow for safe flight,” Binter tweeted.
The Canaryfly airline also said its La Palma flights were temporarily suspended.
The Cumbre Vieja volcano came to life a week ago and has intermittently spewed out lava and ash.
On Friday, a large cloud of thick, black ash forced several airlines to cancel flights.
Then on Saturday AENA announced the full closure of the airport.
New evacuations were also ordered as large explosions and new openings were reported at the volcano on Friday.
So far, more than 6,200 people have been evacuated. However 160 evacuees were allowed to return to their homes on Sunday, the authorities said.
The cancellations have forced some travellers to leave the island by ferry to neighbouring islands, including Tenerife.
Volcano pressure decreases
The Involcan volcanology institute said on Sunday that the pressure inside the volcano had decreased in the previous 24 hours.
“This does mean that the eruption is nearing its end,” the institute said.
According to the European Union’s Copernicus Earth Observation Programme, lava has so far destroyed 461 buildings – 41 more in the past 24 hours – and covered more than 212 hectares of land.
Ash has affected 1,314 hectares of land on the Canary island, the programme added.
Miguel Angel Morcuende, the technical director of the Pevolca volcanic emergency plan, told a press conference on Sunday that the ash had fallen in populated areas near the volcano, as well as other areas in the island’s east.
“All this does not affect the air quality of the inhabited area of the island,” he said. “The air quality is still good.”
No casualties have been reported so far but the damage to land and property has been enormous, with the Canaries regional head Angel Victor Torres estimating the cost at well over 400mn euros ($470 million).
The island’s main economic activity is banana cultivation.
The eruption on La Palma, home to 85,000 people, was the first in 50 years.