The Canary Islands, also known as the Canaries, are a Spanish archipelago located just off the northwest coast of mainland Africa,100 km west of the border between Morocco and the Western Sahara. The Canaries are a Spanish autonomous community and an outermost region of the European Union. The islands include (from largest to smallest): Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro, La Graciosa, Alegranza, Montaña Clara, Roque del Este, Roque del Oeste and Isla de Lobos. The Canary Islands are legally recognized as a nationality of Spain.(From Sept 29, 2011)
The archipelago's beaches, climate and important natural attractions, especially Teide National Park and Mount Teide (the third largest volcano in the world), make it a major tourist destination, with over 12 million visitors per year, especially Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Lanzarote.
The islands have a sub-tropical climate, with long hot days in summer and cooler days in winter. Due to their location close to the equator yet away from tropical storms and location above the temperature inversion layer, these islands are ideal for astronomical observation. For this reason, two professional observatories, Teide Observatory on the island of Tenerife and Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on the island of La Palma, have been built on the islands.
The capital for the Autonomous Community is shared by the cities of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, which in turn are the capitals of the provinces of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria has been the largest city in the Canaries since 1768, except for a brief period in 1910. The third largest city of the Canary Islands is San Cristóbal de La Laguna (a World Heritage Site) on Tenerife.
During the times of the Spanish Empire the Canaries were the main stopover for Spanish galleons on their way to America because of the favorable easterly winds.
From International Business Times: Threat of Volcanic Eruption Spurs Evacuation on Canary Islands
More than fifty residents and tourists have been evacuated from the foot of a volcano on the Canary Islands following a spate of earthquakes that sparked fears of a deadly eruption.
Local officials prepared for the emergency as early as Wednesday after rumblings beneath the Pico de Malpaso mountain raised worries of a possible eruption and flying volcanic rocks on the island of El Hierro in the Atlantic Ocean.
A resident named Herminio Barrera told Agence France Presse: "I have never felt shaking like it. I notice it especially at night. We can also hear a rumbling and sounds from deep down. I am staying calm but there are people who are more worried, particularly those with children. We are very close to the mountain. My father-in-law left yesterday."
According to Agence France Presse, local authorities are establishing an emergency shelter that can hold up to 2000 people.
A German tourist named Tuengen Maier told AFP: "We were having some wine yesterday evening when the Civil Guard told us to leave the house because we were too close to the mountain. We are just going to pick up our luggage this morning. This is too dangerous. We cannot stay."
The Canary Islands are an archipelago of more than a dozen islands that are an autonomous region of Spain. Popular with tourists, the Canaries are located about 100 kilometers west of Morocco.
The national defense ministry also said it has dispatched 31 military personnel to assist with the evacuation.
The regional government of the island stated it was in a ‘pre-alert’ state and has been stocking up on water and medical supplies.
According to reports, Alpidio Armas, chief of the local council, downplayed the scale of emergency.
"We will not have to evacuate the island," he said. "The number of tremors has increased, but most of them are in the sea."
Indeed, the Spanish National Geographic Institute said it has detected 8,000 tremors in the area since July 19, but most of them were too small to be felt. However one tremor recorded Wednesday reached 3.4 magnitude.
A spokesman for the Canary island government told media: "We have not seen this kind of movement with such frequency on El Hierro since records began [more than 100 years ago].”
She added that the last volcanic eruption on the Canaries occurred on La Palma in 1971.