Home International Volcano erupts in Iceland, posing risk to fishing town

Volcano erupts in Iceland, posing risk to fishing town

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A volcano erupted in south-west Iceland on Sunday, posing an immediate threat to a nearby small fishing town although it had been evacuated earlier and no people were in danger, authorities said.

A volcano spews lava and smoke as it erupts in Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland, January 14, 2024. Picture: Iceland Civil Protection, Handout via Reuters

A VOLCANO erupted in south-west Iceland on Sunday, posing an immediate threat to a nearby small fishing town although it had been evacuated earlier and no people were in danger, authorities said.

Live video showed fountains of molten rock and smoke spewing from fissures in the ground across a wide area very close to the town of Grindavik.

“No lives are in danger, although infrastructure may be under threat,” Iceland’s President Gudni Johannesson said on social media site X, adding there had been no interruptions to flights.

The eruption began early on Sunday north of the town, which just hours before had been evacuated for the second time since November over fears that an outbreak was imminent amid a swarm of seismic activity, authorities said.

Authorities built barriers of earth and rock in recent weeks to try to prevent lava from reaching Grindavik, some 40km south-west of the capital Reykjavik, but the latest eruption appeared to have penetrated the town’s defences.

“According to the first images from the Coast Guard’s surveillance flight, a crack has opened on both sides of the defences that have begun to be built north of Grindavík,” the Icelandic Meteorological Office IMO said.

Lava was flowing towards the town and had come within an estimated 450 metres, the IMO said. The nearby geothermal spa Blue Lagoon had closed on Sunday, it said on its website.

Based on flow models, it could take the lava a few hours to reach Grindavik if it continued to flow towards the town, an IMO spokesperson told public broadcaster RUV.

“It is of course frightening to see how close this is to the town,” Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir told daily Morgunbladid.

VOLCANIC HOT-SPOT

It was the second volcanic eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula in south-west Iceland in less than one month and the fifth outbreak since 2021.

Last month, an eruption started in the Svartsengi volcanic system on December 18 following the complete evacuation a month earlier of Grindavik’s 4,000 residents and the closing of the Blue Lagoon, a popular tourist spot.

More than 100 Grindavik residents had returned in recent weeks, before Saturday’s renewed evacuation order, according to local authorities.

Iceland, which is roughly the size of the US state of Kentucky, boasts more than 30 active volcanoes, making the north European island a prime destination for volcano tourism – a niche segment that attracts thousands of thrill seekers.

In 2010, ash clouds from eruptions at the Eyafjallajokull volcano in the south of Iceland spread over large parts of Europe, grounding some 100,000 flights and forcing hundreds of Icelanders to evacuate their homes.

Unlike Eyafjallajokull, the Reykjanes volcano systems are not trapped under glaciers and are thus not expected to cause similar ash clouds.

– REUTERS

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