The ongoing eruption on the Spanish island of La Palma entered the history books Sunday by becoming the longest local eruption on record.
The spectacular volcanic activity that started on Sept. 19 continues to spew smoke and ash miles into the air and threaten more buildings and land as a wall of lava slowly inches forward.
At 84 days and with no signs of stopping, it now beats the previous local record that was set for the longest eruption in 1585, when the Tajuya volcano caught La Palma residents by surprise.
“Everyone thought it was the end of the world,” reported Italian engineer Leonardo Torriani, who witnessed the 16th-century eruption and later published a book describing the Canary Islands.
He described how people could see the volcano creating “huge torrents of fire, smoke and ash” by day and “fire and flames” by night.
His descriptions of the 1585 eruption closely resemble what has been occurring on the island for 12 weeks.
Thousands of people have been displaced as lava has indiscriminately swallowed entire neighborhoods, homes, farmland, beaches, roads, schools, churches and businesses.
According to satellite data, this eruption has so far destroyed more than 3,000 buildings and 1,184 hectares (2,925 acres) of land.
Although the eruption had been slowing down in recent days, on Sunday, it reasserted its presence with huge plumes of smoke and ash.
While scientists were able to predict that an eruption would start, unlike in the 16th century, they are still highly uncertain of when it will end.
Some evidence suggests that it could end before the end of the year, but it remains highly speculative.
Throughout the known history of all eight of Spain’s Canary Islands, only three eruptions have gone on longer than this one: one in 1824 in Lanzarote that lasted 86 days, another in Tenerife in 1789 that lasted 99, and a six-year-long Timanfaya eruption in Lanzarote that began in 1730.