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Aerial Bombing May Be Used to Stem Canary Islands Volcano Eruption

Canary Island Volcano
The volcanic eruption outside La Palma in the Canary Islands may be the subject of an aerial bombing, if a Spanish lawmaker has his way. Credit: Eduardo Robaina/CC BY-SA 3.0

The Canary Islands volcano that has been erupting for 42 days straight might get its comeuppance soon if a Spanish lawmaker has his way. Displacing thousands of people and upending the lives of everybody on the entire island of La Palma, the Cumbre Vieja volcano might be bombed as a way to stop the flow of lava down its sides toward cities and towns.

With some lava from the volcano already having reached the sea, the angry mountain shows no signs of stopping at present.

In several days, it will break its all-time record for the longest duration of an eruption, 47 days, which was set in 1947, according to a new report from Live Science.

Bombs, water cannon and explosives in tubes used to fight volcanoes

Casimiro Curbelo, the president of the municipal council of La Gomera, an island next to La Palma, suggested that the lava flows might be stanched or possibly diverted away  from human habitations by the strategic bombing of the volcano.

“Isn’t there a plane that could fly and drop (a bomb)? It arrives, drops and boom. And it sends the lava in a different direction?” Curbelo speculated during a radio debate broadcast on the Canary Islands’ Radio Faycán. “Maybe it’s madness, but I get the impression from a technological point of view that it should be tried.”

It could be crazy; it certainly is the ultimate meme generator, as we have seen from multiple examples on the internet showing depicting him next to Bruce Willis in the movie “Armageddon,”where he must destroy an Earth-bound asteroid with a nuclear bomb.

Or, just perhaps, it’s a brilliant idea.

Something, he maintains, must be done — so far the lava flows from the Cumbre Vieja volcano have destroyed a total of 2,519 buildings, blanketing 3.6 square miles( 9.4 square kilometers) in slowly-cooling rock, according to the most recent information obtained from the European satellite system Copernicus.

With approximately 7,000 islanders forced to leave their homes, against a backdrop of huge plumes of molted lava spewing up into the sky every night, the local people are beginning to be a bit fed up with their noisy neighbor.

Thinking outside of the box can help in dealing with Canary Islands volcano

Now, a series of earthquakes has rattled their sense of stability even further.

Curbelo’s unusual idea has its roots in historical fact. With Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano having much the same eruption pattern as Cumbra Vieja, he is taking his cue from the US Army, which indeed bombed the volcano in an attempt to stem an explosion in 1935.

At the time the town of Hilo was threatened with lava flows, no less of a personage than the future General George S. Patton dropped a total of 20 bombs onto the river of lava emanating from Mauna Loa.

And the lava did indeed stop – although that may have been more of a coincidence thaanything else, with the lava flow having slowed somewhat just prior, according to pilots and geologists who took part in the bombing mission

Indeed, later studies undertaken by the US Geological Survey back up the conclusion that the bombing had no effect on the stoppage of the lava.

Many still remember the Herculean efforts — ultimately successful — to save the village of Heimaey in Iceland from the onslaught of an erupting volcano in the early 1970’s. Although some homes were covered in ash and molten rock, most of the village was saved by the training of water cannons on the flowing lava, stopping it in its tracks.

Another human intervention against the power of volcanoes was made in 1983, when another successful attempt to thwart tragedy and property loss was made along the slopes of Mt. Etna in Sicily.

That time, dynamite was employed to divert the lava flow away from a village. Engineers used a whopping 900 pounds (408 kilograms) of explosives, which they enclosed in water-cooled pipes, next to the flow, according to Live Science.

However, the result was a mixed blessing — although the resultant blast did indeed create another trench for the lava to flow into, it also redirected itself to new areas, necessitating the local people to take shovels out to the slopes themselves in an effort to deal with it.

As of now, however, there are no signs that the Spanish military is planning any bombing runs above the glowing skies of La Palma, although Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has promised to step up much-needed aid shipments to residents who have lost not only homes but livelihoods to the volcano.

So far there have been no human casualties as a result of the Cumbra Vieja eruption and life goes on for the vast majority of the 85,000 people living on La Palma, most of whom do not live on the western side of the island that is affected by the volcano.

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