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Volcanic ash forces shutdown of airport at Spain’s La Palma island

Volcanic ash forces shutdown of airport at Spain’s La Palma island
Spanish officials have closed the airport of La Palma on Thursday due to ash coming from the Cumbre Vieja volcano, which has been erupting on the most northwesterly island in the Canary Islands archipelago for more than two weeks.

“The La Palma Airport is inoperative due to ash accumulation. The established protocols are being applied,” Spanish air traffic operator AENA announced on Twitter. “Safety is the priority,” the agency said, explaining the decision.

The operations of the airports on other Canary Islands, located in the Atlantic Ocean, have been unaffected by the volcanic activity as they remained open, AENA added.

The 1,949-meter-tall Cumbre Vieja started erupting on La Palma on September 19, with lava flowing downhill toward the coast and creating a large rocky outcrop in the ocean.

The first disaster of its kind on the island since 1971 prompted the evacuation of more than 6,000 people, with 1,000 houses being destroyed and banana plantations and other infrastructure ruined.

The La Palma Airport had been previously forced to shut down on September 25, with the ash coming from the volcano also being the reason. It reopened the next day.

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Ash poses danger to aircraft because it abrades forward-facing external surfaces, including windscreens, and puts navigation equipment and other vital systems at risk of failure. When sucked into engines, melting ash particles can degrade performance to the point of stalling in-flight compressors and causing loss of thrust power.

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