Despite thousands of people being evacuated from the Canary Island after the Mount Cumbre Vieja erupted on Sunday, Reyes Maroto emphasised that the “island is open” for visitors.
She told radio station Canal Sur: “There are no restrictions on going to the island... on the contrary, we're passing on the information so tourists know they can travel to the island and enjoy something unusual, see it for themselves.”
Shortly before the eruption at 3.15pm local time on 19 September, the island authorities started evacuating elderly locals and farm animals in the vicinity. Two hours later, five rivers of lava were trickling down the hillside, while after dark local photographers captured dramatic pictures of lava shooting up towards the night sky.
On Tuesday, authorities warned that lava flowing into the sea could release toxic gases.
Some 360 tourists were also evacuated following the eruption, and taken to the nearby island of Tenerife by boat on Monday, said a spokesperson for ferry operator Fred Olsen.
Maroto came under fire from some for her comments.
Teodoro Garcia Egea, secretary general of the opposition People's Party, referred to the remarks in a tweet, asking: “Can someone confirm the minister said that while hundreds of people are losing everything they have?”
More than 6,000 people have been evacuated so far, including those in the village of El Paso after lava started spewing from a new crack in the volcano yesterday.
Hundreds of people’s home have been destroyed in the first eruption in the Canary Islands for 50 years.