A river of lava that is trickling out of a volcano on the Spanish island of La Palma has reached the Atlantic Ocean, sending plumes of white smoke high into the air.
Involvcan — the Canary Islands Volcanic Institute — confirmed on Tuesday that the flow of lava had reached the ocean. Video footage from the island captured the event, and NASA satellites even photographed it from high above the Earth.
While the breathtaking event is a natural wonder, officials fear it could pose a health problem to people in the area. AFP reports that the rapid cooling of the lava could cause the release of toxic gases in the atmosphere that can irritate the eyes, skin and lungs.
According to AFP, residents in nearby Tazacorte were told to stay in their homes to avoid breathing in the fumes. The BBC adds that officials also fear that parts of the island's shoreline could collapse, which could trigger explosions should a large amount of lava fall into the ocean.
La Palma's volcano, named La Cumbre Vieja, began erupting on Sept. 19. While the flow of lava has slowed in recent days, the eruption has destroyed more than 300 homes and, according to Reuters, a sizeable portion of the island's lucrative banana crop.
Prior to this month, the last eruption on La Palma occurred 50 years ago and lasted over three weeks, The Associated Press reports.