Will Canary Islands El Hierro Eruption Spark Tsunami, Destroy US East Coast?

Image: Will Canary Islands El Hierro Eruption Spark Tsunami, Destroy US East Coast? El Hierro, smallest of Spain's Canary Islands, is home to an active volcano.

Tuesday, 26 Mar 2013 12:02 PM

By Alexandra Ward

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A stream of seismic activity under El Hierro in Spain's Canary Islands means the volcano could soon erupt, volcanologists say. The earthquake report is causing panic on social news site Reddit, as users worry that an eruption could ultimately cause a massive tsunami that could wipe out the East Coast of the United States.

Hundreds to thousands of minor earthquakes have been detected under El Hierro, the active volcano in the Canary Islands, in the last week with 224 quakes listed Monday and 74 as of Tuesday morning, according to Earthquake Report, a site that live blogs seismic activity. The earthquakes indicate that the volcano may soon erupt, as tremors also preceded El Hierro's last eruption in 2011.

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Reddit users are on high alert, fearing an eruption could trigger a landslide and cause a tsunami, a situation that Internet alarmists and tabloid newspapers often exacerbate. Scientists see the odds of a major tsunami as slim.

"The part people are freaking out about is the low but non-zero probability that an eruption could set off a massive landslide," user "Cyrius" wrote. "This landslide could generate a mega tsunami that would devastate basically everything on the coast of the North Atlantic."

"Some of the sources I looked at said that such a tsunami would have waves hitting the Eastern coast at 100-200 feet high and traveling 400-600 miles per hour, and that these waves would travel up to 20 miles inland," Reddit user "drukaree" wrote. "In other words, any city touching the ocean on the East Coast would probably be devastated if not entirely destroyed."

"Shouldn't the eastern part of the United States be evacuating? NOW?" another user questioned.

Others shook off the warnings as wild speculation.

"Are you really suggesting that we should evacuate a hundred million people to the far side of the Appalachians for an indefinite period of time because of a volcanic eruption which might happen, which might trigger a landslide, which might trigger a tsunami, none of which we're any good at predicting?"

As of Tuesday, PEVOLCA, the El Hierro emergency management body, is keeping the alert status at green, as they believe that the earthquakes are not a danger to anyone on the island, according to Wired.

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Related stories:

5 Dead in Lifeboat Drill off Canary Islands in Spain


Tsunami Hits Hawaii After Canada Earthquake

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