A volcano erupted this Monday at 10:17 p.m. in Iceland (an hour more in mainland Spain) about three kilometers northeast of the town of Grindavik, a small fishing municipality located on the Reikjanes peninsula, just 60 kilometers from Reykjavík, the capital. “Seismic activity as well as GPS device measurements indicate that the magma is moving southwest and that the eruption could continue towards Grindavik,” explained the Meteorological Office. The fissure, on the Earth’s surface, is approximately 3.5 kilometers long and expels between 100 and 200 cubic meters of lava per second, with columns of smoke about a hundred meters high. Since late October, earthquakes had been occurring in the region, already anticipating a major eruption in a country with 200 active volcanoes. Four hours after the eruption began, the MET reported that its intensity was “decreasing”, fueling authorities’ hopes that the lava would not reach urban areas or a nearby power plant.
The eruption is located near the Sundhnuka crater, between Silingafell and Hagafell, about three kilometers from Grindavik, in the southwest of the country. Nearby webcams allow you to see the crack and the path of the lava. “The eruption was preceded by a series of earthquakes that began at 9:00 p.m.,” the MET reported on its website. Keflavik International Airport, in the Reikjanes region, about 30 kilometers from the volcano, remains open, although it has suffered numerous delays in both arrivals and departures.
Authorities evacuated nearly 4,000 residents of Grindavik last month and closed the spa The Blue Lagoon resort “reopened precisely this Monday”. For this reason and so far, no one has been injured. The Ministry of the Environment has asked local residents to stay at home due to the forecast of gusty southwest winds which will bring ash and toxins. However, citizens have already come to the site to observe the evolution of the eruption.
The volcano fissure is also located very close to the Svartsengi geothermal power plant. The arrival of lava in the power plant, as well as its impact on the town of Grindavik, has been one of the main concerns of the Icelandic authorities in recent weeks. Even if Monday evening’s eruption is larger than those previously recorded on the Reikjanes peninsula, volcanologists who have been able to visit the area from the air in recent hours have so far minimized the risks for the Svartsengi installations.
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The Commissioner of the National Police, who coordinates the work of the security forces in the country, in consultation with the Chief of Police of Sudurnes (southern region of Iceland), declared the emergency level of the Civil Defense. Icelandic President Gudni Johannesson wrote a message on his X account in which he explained that the affected region had been closed: “Our priorities remain the protection of lives and infrastructure (…). Now we wait to see what the forces of nature have in store for us. “We are prepared and remain vigilant. »
Katrín Jakobsdottir, Prime Minister of Iceland he recalled in turn on the social network Facebook that the evacuation in Grindavik began on November 10. At the end of November, Icelandic authorities decided to suspend the state of emergency declared twelve days earlier in Grindavik due to seismic activity, estimating that the probability of an eruption within the limits of this city had diminished. “Now we see the Earth opening up and we can thank all of our good first responders and scientists who have been patrolling this area over the last few weeks and months,” he said. The Prime Minister explained that barriers or “defence parks” have been created, “which will make a significant difference”. “Our thoughts are as before with the local population, we hope for the best (…),” Jakobsdóttir said.
Located between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, among the largest on the planet, Iceland is a seismic and volcanic country precisely because of the movement of the two plates in opposite directions.
The Reikjanes Peninsula has suffered several eruptions in sparsely populated areas in recent years. In March 2021, lava fountains emerged from a fissure in the ground measuring between 500 and 750 meters long in the Fagradalsfjall volcanic system in the region. Volcanic activity in the area continued for six months that year, prompting thousands of Icelanders and tourists to visit the site. A three-week eruption occurred in the same area in August 2022, followed by another in July of the same year.