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Tamaño letra

El Hierro eruption fears ease as pressure released

Interior Ministry says signs of tremors "significantly reduced"

The threat of a volcanic eruption on El Hierro has eased after recurring bouts of underwater seismic activity over the week reduced pressure, the Interior Minister said on Thursday, adding that the emergency situation on the Canary Island appears to have stabilized.

"Since the early afternoon hours [Wednesday], signs of volcanic tremors have been significantly reduced, and for that reason, there is little risk," the ministry said in a statement.

About 600 residents of the coastal town of La Restinga, on the southern tip of the island, were evacuated Tuesday as a precaution following the offshore eruption over the weekend.

Volcanologists from the National Geographic Institute have been monitoring the tremors since July 19.

On Wednesday, the ING reported seeing two large sea stains caused by eruptions coming through two underwater openings, which appeared to be spurting magma. One of the openings was reported about 750 meters underwater some 3.7 kilometers off the coast, while the other was located 500 meters below the ocean surface, just some 2.8 kilometers south of La Restinga.

The first boat from the ING is expected to arrive to investigate the site of the eruptions early on Friday. The Profesor Ignacio Lozano left the port of Taliarte, in Gran Canaria on Thursday.

Even though the risk of an eruption has appeared to have dissipated with the ease in pressure, the Interior Ministry said the alert for seven Canary Islands was still in effect. In an interview with RNE on Thursday, David Calvo, an ING spokesman, also reaffirmed that while authorities remain vigilant, there was no cause for alarm.

In the two areas where the yellowish-green stains were spotted scientists said they noticed "a large number of dead fish" as well as a noticeable odor of sulfur.

Even though the situation appears to have stabilized, maritime authorities in Santa Cruz de Tenerife are still blocking off a four-mile radius around the Punta de La Restinga, prohibiting fishing, sporting and recreational vessels from venturing into the area.

Scientists detected a series of eruptions underneath the waters of Mar de las Calmas on Monday after about 10,000 tremors were registered over the weekend. The most intense of these, 4.3 on the Richter scale, was reported on Saturday.

Meanwhile, there is growing concern from local fishermen, who have had their boats docked since Tuesday, about how the natural phenomena will affect their livelihood.

Some have ruled out suggestions by local authorities to move their operations to the port of Estaca in Valverde, EFE reports.

Juan Miguel Padrón, the mayor of El Pinar, said Thursday that the local government may have to offer some type of financial aid for the fishermen. Created in 2007, El Pinar is Spain's newest municipality.

Padrón explained that it was impossible for scientists to predict when the danger would be over so the fishermen can return to the area, much less determine what the long-term environmental damage would be. The mayor said the people of La Restinga were getting "very impatient" and wanted to return to their homes.