Rivers of lava at volcano on Spanish island of La Palma.

Intensifying volcanic explosions on the Spanish island of La Palma forced firefighters to retreat and authorities to evacuate three more towns on Friday (September 24).

Canary Islands emergency services had initially told residents to stay indoors to avoid the dense cloud of ash and lava fragments but later decided to evacuate due to the heightened risk from explosions.

Since erupting on Sunday, the Cumbre Vieja volcano has spewed out thousands of tons of lava, destroyed hundreds of houses and forced the evacuation of thousands of people.

No serious injuries or fatalities have been reported but about 15% of the island's economically crucial banana crop could be at risk, jeopardising thousands of jobs.

A cloud of toxic gas and ash extends more than 4 km (2-1/2 miles) into the sky, the Canaries volcanology institute said on Thursday.

It has begun to drift northeast towards the Mediterranean and Spanish mainland, the national weather agency said.

Airspace above the island remains open apart from two small areas near the eruption site.

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