Spain has classified La Palma as a disaster zone, a move that will trigger financial support for the island where a volcanic eruption has wrecked buildings and destroyed crops over the past nine days.

The government announced a first package of €10.5 million, which includes around €5 million to buy houses, with the rest to acquire furniture and essential household goods, government spokesperson Isabel Rodriguez said.

Lava has been flowing down the volcano's western flank towards the sea since 19 September.

It has destroyed almost 600 houses and banana plantations in La Palma, which neighbours Tenerife in the Canary Islands archipelago off the North African coast.

Thousands have been evacuated and three coastal villages were locked down yesterday in anticipation of lava meeting the Atlantic Ocean and releasing toxic gases.

But authorities cannot determine if and when the molten rock will reach the sea or how long the eruption will continue.

For several hours yesterday, the eruption slowed to a near halt before roaring back into life in the evening.

"We are still waiting on whatever the volcano wants to do," said Miguel Angel Morcuende, director of the Pevolca response committee. "When the lava reaches the sea, the lockdown must be strictly observed."