The story of a Leeds man who found himself in the middle of the La Palma volcano eruption
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Ben Ireland, 22, currently studying for his Masters in volcanology from the University of Bristol is currently in the midst of a once in a lifetime experience, as he gets a boots on the ground view of the Volcanic eruption in La Palma.
Having spent four weeks working for GeoTenerife as an intern learning about the volcanic landscapes of the area, he soon found himself rushing to the site of Cumbre Vieja's eruption, an event which only takes place roughly every 50 years.
Speaking on his internship with GeoTenerife, Ben commented: “I did four weeks with them and then when we saw that the volcano was erupting here, we thought well there's no better opportunity to put into practice what I've just been learning about then getting over here and reporting on it live.”
Living next to an active volcano, locals live under constant threat of the potential dangers of the mountain and when pressed on whether there is a volcano warning system, similar to the US Tornado warnings, Ben explained: “Yes, in some places like Hawaii and Japan there are text mesage warnings. They don't have that here but what they do have is the local authorities who are monitoring the situation.
“They are monitoring the situation very closely, and in this case they were able to get people evacuated before the eruption had even started as they were able to see that an eruption was imminent.”
Mount Cumbre Vieja last erupted in 1971 and on that occasion fortunately did very little damage to the surrounding villages. Sadly the locals have not been so lucky this time around but whilst witnessing the devastation of those who have lost their homes, Ben expressed just how impressed he has been with the unity and solidarity shown by the local community: “They are devastated but there has also been a lot of unity and solidarity between the locals but there has also been a bit of surprise as the last eruption didn't affect any homes, it didn't cause any destruction so it is remembered quite fondly here.
“People were sitting on blankets to watch the eruption and the spectacle but the destruction caused this time has brought the eruption into perspective for them.”
With the eruption becoming international news the lenses of the world's media has shifted to La Palma and the fluid situation there but Ben was keen to dismiss what he feels has been an over-dramatisation stating: “I feel like overall there is a lack of understanding over the different types of eruption that you can get. The ones here on this island and in the Canary Islands in general tend to be much smaller and less to the explosive side of things.”
Over 600 homes are believed to have now been damaged or destroyed by lava, which has now reached the sea causing a chain reaction which has led to small toxic gas clouds being released into the air but for Ben the experience of his first volcanic eruption and the realisation of a dream held since his days of studying Geography in school, it has been a whirlwind of emotions: “For me it's the first time I've ever seen a volcano erupting so it is absolutely fascinating from a volcanology perspective and actually seeing what I have been learning about and learning on the job has been really exciting.
“But of course there is a very human side to all this, this eruption and the destruction that it has caused.”