Intensifying volcanic explosions on the Spanish island of La Palma have forced firefighters to retreat and authorities to evacuate three more towns while airlines cancelled flights due to a huge cloud of gas and ash.
Firefighters pulled out of clean-up work in the town of Todoque on Friday afternoon as a new vent opened up in the flank of the volcano and videos shared on social media showed a massive shockwave emanating out from the eruption site.
"The volcano is in a newly explosive phase... Firefighters will not operate anymore today," tweeted the Tenerife fire service, which has been deployed to help on La Palma.
Authorities ordered the evacuation of the towns of Tajuya, Tacande de Abajo and the part of Tacande de Arriba that had not already been cleared on Friday afternoon, with residents told to gather at the local football ground.
Emergency services had initially told residents to stay indoors to avoid the dense cloud of ash and lava fragments being carried through the air but moved to an evacuation due to the heightened risk from explosions.
Since erupting on Sunday, the Cumbre Vieja volcano has spewed out thousands of tonnes of lava, destroyed hundreds of houses and forced thousands of people to relocate.
No serious injuries or fatalities have been reported but 15 per cent of the island's economically crucial banana crop could be at risk, jeopardising thousands of jobs.
Local Canary Island carrier Binter said on Friday it had cancelled all flights to La Palma due to the volcano eruption while Spanish airline Iberia cancelled its only flight scheduled for the day and another local airline, Canaryfly, also suspended its operations.
Binter said in an statement that it was forced to halt its operations to and from La Palma as the ash cloud produced by the volcano had worsened considerably in the last few hours.
The local airline, which had initially only cancelled night flights, said it did not have a time frame to resume operations.
A cloud of toxic gas and ash extends more than 4km into the sky, the Canaries volcanology institute said on Thursday.
It has begun to drift northeast toward the Mediterranean and Spanish mainland, the AEMET national weather agency said.
Airspace above the island remains open apart from two small areas near the eruption site.
Australian Associated Press