image source, EPAimage caption, A red hot current is now pouring into the ocean at the Playa Nueva area

Lava from an erupting volcano on Spain's La Palma island has reached the Atlantic Ocean, raising fears of toxic gases being released and explosions.

Clouds of white steam were seen rising as a red-hot current made contact with the water in the Playa Nueva area.

This could trigger a chemical reaction, involving chlorine, which can irritate the skin and eyes and affect breathing.

Hundreds of homes have been destroyed since the Cumbre Vieja volcano in the Canary Islands erupted on 19 September.

About 6,000 people have been evacuated, as the lava was engulfing houses, schools and some banana plantations.

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The lava reached the ocean late on Tuesday, the Canary Islands Volcanic Institute, Involcan, tweeted.

There are also fears that parts of the shoreline could now collapse, triggering explosions.

Three coastal villages were earlier locked down in anticipation of the lava making contact with the water.

The Spanish authorities have declared La Palma – the most north-westerly island of the archipelago off the north African coast – a disaster zone, pledging financial support for all those affected by the volcanic activity.

media caption, Watch: Lava from La Palma volcano engulfs swimming pool