After a week-long series of earthquakes, a volcanic eruption occurred on the Reykjanes Peninsula in Iceland late Monday evening. This was announced by the Icelandic Meteorological Office. The institute warned on its homepage that the eruption began north of the town of Grindavík shortly after 10 p.m. (local time).
Films and photos on Platform X showed orange-red glowing lava fountains shooting into the dark night sky and illuminating it brightly. Police asked onlookers not to approach the lava. The town of Grindavik had already been evacuated in November due to fears of an outbreak.
The fissure widened throughout the night and grew to about four kilometers by early morning, a volcanologist said. According to experts, the crack is many times longer than the eruptions on the Reykjanes Peninsula in recent years. The lava flow is also much larger, with around 100 to 200 cubic meters of lava flowing out of the crack per second. Civil defense declared an emergency level.
Volcanologist Ármann Höskuldsson said the crack extends towards Grindavík. Fortunately, no lava flows towards the power plants there. The building is currently not at risk, it said. Höskuldsson told Icelandic radio station RÚV that he estimated the eruption could last a week to ten days.
Expected and yet surprised
Geophysicist Benedikt Ofeigsson from the Icelandic Meteorological Agency said the eruption was located at the Sundhnjúka crater, according to local media reports. At the moment it is difficult to say whether infrastructure or the town of Grindavík is in danger.
Iceland's President Gudni Jóhannesson wrote on Facebook that it was still unclear what damage the eruption could cause. He asked local people to follow all recommendations from emergency services “at this dangerous moment”. Grindavík Mayor Fannar Jónasson said he was somewhat surprised by the timing of the eruption, as the earthquakes had calmed down somewhat in recent days.
However, there were fears of the eruption - hundreds of earthquakes had occurred in the past few weeks. The fishing village of Grindavík was evacuated in November because of this. Around 4,000 people were brought to safety. Most recently, residents of Grindavík were allowed to enter their homes again during the day. However, they were not allowed to return completely.
The Blue Lagoon tourist attraction, located just a few kilometers from town, was only reopened at the weekend after a temporary closure. It is only around 40 kilometers southwest of the capital Reykjavik. There were no guests there at the time of the eruption, according to what is probably the most famous tourist attraction on the island.
Recent eruptions hit uninhabited areas
Not only the lava flows are dangerous for people, but also the ash fall and released toxins. Under the town on the Reykjanes Peninsula, where volcanic eruptions have occurred three years in a row, a 15-kilometer-long magma tunnel runs from northeast to southwest into the sea. The most recent eruptions, most recently in July, always hit uninhabited areas.
The land of glaciers, volcanoes and geysers lies on the seam between the North American and Eurasian plates. This is why seismic activity often occurs on the island, which has a total population of almost 390,000. Volcanic eruptions with spectacular images always attract onlookers and tourists. In total there are more than 30 active volcanoes on the North Atlantic island.