Eruption in the Canaries, anxiety among Italians about the Galileo Telescope-

Eruption in the Canaries, anxiety among Italians about the Galileo Telescope-
Eruption in the Canaries, anxiety among Italians about the Galileo Telescope-
from Agostino Gramigna

The director is the astronomer Ennio Poretti: «The structure is not in danger, but we are worried. Serious and evolving situation “

The scientist sees the thick smoke rising to the sky, the red of the clouds colored by the flames. He says: «At the moment we do not feel in danger, but we are vigilant, we follow the evolution and I’d tell a lie if I said we’re not worried. But the safety of the island is not in question. There will be no apocalypse as I have heard ».

Close to the lava

Ennio Poretti is the astronomer and directs the Tng, the Galileo National Telescope which is located about ten kilometers from the Cumbre Vieja volcano, currently erupting in La Palma, in the Canary Islands. The situation is serious. In some ways dramatic. At the moment there are about five thousand people evacuated and more 100 houses destroyed by lava, including that of the family of an employee of the Galileo Galilei Foundation who runs the telescope. No damage to the facilities of the Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory. «The erupting volcano is located in the southern part of the island – says Poretti -. We are in the North, at 2400 meters above sea level. And we are in no danger».

The telescope

Poretti has been in La Palma since 2018. The island is a tourist destination. But it is also home to numerous telescopes for stargazing. There are about thirty Italian scientists.
Half live there permanently. The Galileo National Telescope was built in the Canary Islands twenty-five years ago (the anniversary should be celebrated from 19 to 21 October). The choice was made because few places are so favorable to point the instruments high and observe stars and planets: dark skies and clear nights. Poretti speaks on the phone.

The evacuation plan

The voice does not betray tension. Calmly describes what is happening. “About 120 hectares were invaded by lava which destroyed 160 homes.
The situation is serious and is evolving. However, the evacuation plan is progressing quite well. The authorities are doing everything to stem the lava and are transporting the evacuees to the reception facilities. They closed the main street, from East to West, to avoid the crowd of onlookers and tourists. But, I want to say, we are not facing the apocalypse, as I have heard. The territory is safe. The king of Spain should also arrive in the next few days».

“Ash on the ground and in the air”

The lava is invading an area to the south of the island traced by several paths that in the summer is stormed by tourists. Here the last eruption took place 50 years ago, in 1971, very close to the sea. It had not caused damage as it had happened in the 1949 phenomenon. To return to current events, the signs of a new eruption had already been felt in the past few weeks. Poretti explains: «The experts had recorded several seismic tremors and a significant increase in their intensity. The inhabitants saw their houses swing. For this the authorities were prepared and acted immediately. The rescue car was set in motion already on Sunday afternoon when the residents were evacuated ». Meanwhile, the red flame still colors the clouds. There is a large amount of ash in the air and on the ground. And despite the difficulties (for now) the airport has not been closed.

September 21, 2021 (change September 21, 2021 | 19:43)


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