Politician suggests bombing erupting La Palma volcano to stop lava flow

Just over a week remains before the volcano breaks its record for longest-lasting eruptions.
A Spanish politician suggested that bombing La Palma's lava flows may be the best way to stop the destruction caused by the molten river. According to its advocates, bombing runs could be used to divert deadly lava flows from populated areas.

Monday, November 1, was the 42nd day of eruptions at La Cumbre Vieja volcano in Spain’s Canary Islands. Live Science reported that approximately 7,000 people have had to leave their homes due to lava flows. These flows have poured from the volcano at thousands of feet in the air and have destroyed homes, offices, and large areas of land across the southwest part of the island.

The latest survey by European satellite system Copernicus shows that the lava has now covered 3.6 miles (9.4 kilometers) of land. Casimiro Curbelo (the president of La Gomera's municipal council) suggested that the lava flow could be diverted by using more extreme methods, such as a plane bombing them.

Related: Big blasts: History's 10 most destructive volcanoes

"Isn’t it possible to fly and drop [a] bomb from a plane?" It arrives, it drops, and boom. It sends the lava in another direction." Curbelo stated this during a debate on Radio Faycn in the Canary Islands. "Maybe it's madness but I get it from a technological perspective that it should be attempted."

Curbelo's suggestion sparked criticism. A few memes featuring Curbelo alongside Bruce Willis were created. In "Armageddon," Curbelo's character is given the task of destroying an Earth-bound, asteroid using a nuclear bomb.

Curbelo's bizarre proposal isn’t completely outlandish, despite all the ridicule. The U.S. Army under the command of Gen. George S. Patton dropped 20 explosive bombs on the lava river in 1935 when the Mauna Loa volcano's lava was threatening to reach Hilo. The lava flow was stopped after the bombardment. However, pilots and geologists who were part of the bombing mission thought that the flow was still slowing, according to U.S. Geological Survey. Later appraisals by the USGS supported the conclusion that it was just a coincidence.

In 1983, dynamite was used to divert the lava flow from Mount Etna's eruption away from a village. Around 900 pounds (408 kg) of explosives were placed next to the flow by engineers who used water-cooled pipes. The aim was to create an artificial trench from the lava river. According to one engineer, the experiment was successful. It blasted most of the lava into a trench, where it was directed. However, the explosion also caused a split in another lava stream. This sent many locals up to the mountain carrying shovels to deal with the unpredictable branches.

Curbelo made the suggestion to Spain's military, but they have not followed through. Sanchez however has pledged to speed up aid delivery to the victims.

The eruption has not caused any deaths and the lives of the 85,000 residents living on the west side of the island have remained relatively normal.

The volcano is very close to breaking the 1949 record of 47 days spent erupting.

Original publication on Live Science