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Iceland Volcano Erupts Again, Streams of Lava Reach Town’s Defensive Walls

A volcano in southwestern Iceland erupted on Wednesday and it is the fifth eruption since December. Lava is currently spewing 50 meters into the air from a fissure approximately 3.5 kilometers long near the Sundhnúkur crater row. The eruption began in the early afternoon of May 29, 2024.

Iceland Volcano Erupts Again, Streams of Lava Reach Town’s Defensive Walls

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The eruption began around 1 p.m. local time, following an earthquake at the Sundhnúks crater. Iceland’s Meteorological Office (IMO) reported that this eruption is more vigorous than previous ones in the area with red-hot lava fountains shooting into the air along a 3.4-kilometer (2.1-mile) fissure near Mount Hagafell on the Reykjanes Peninsula.

The IMO had warned of a likely volcanic eruption due to intense seismic activity and magma buildup in the crater’s underground reservoir.

Lava flows have cut off two of the three roads leading to Grindavík, a fishing town with a population of about 3,000 people.

The lava is steadily moving along defensive barriers built to protect the town and infrastructure. Víðir Reynisson from Iceland’s Civil Defense stated that the defensive walls are holding for now but lava is flowing outside these barriers in several places.

Most residents of Grindavík were evacuated during a previous eruption in December. Remaining residents and responders have been urged to leave the town while possible, though three residents have refused to evacuate.

Electricity to Grindavík was cut as a protective measure to prevent damage to high-voltage lines and hot and cold water pipes in the ground. Many high-voltage pylons have been damaged or set ablaze by the lava

According to Benedikt Ófeigsson from the IMO, this eruption features a higher volume of lava flow than previous eruptions.

The lava shot 165 feet into the sky creating massive streams that have the potential to isolate the town completely.

A dark plume of ash was seen rising over the crater indicating an explosive interaction between magma and groundwater.

This ash cloud initially did not pose a threat to aviation but was under close observation by scientists.

The Sundhnukagigar volcanic system became active again three years ago after centuries of dormancy. Grindavík has faced continuous threats since a swarm of earthquakes in November led to an evacuation before the first eruption on December 18.

This volcanic activity has disrupted district heating, closed key roads, and destroyed several buildings in Grindavík.

The area is part of the Svartsengi volcanic system which had been dormant for nearly 800 years before reawakening.

The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, a tourist attraction located just under an hour’s drive from Reykjavik, was evacuated for the third time in two months.

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This popular site is part of the Reykjanes Peninsula, a geologically active area known for its volcanic activity.

There has been no disruption to international or domestic flights as confirmed by Iceland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Keflavik airport’s website.

Iceland’s Civil Defense remains on high alert and authorities have ordered another evacuation of Grindavík.

Grindavík Mayor Fannar Jónasson expressed concern over the large volume of lava moving toward the town.

Iceland sits atop a volcanic hotspot between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. The country is one of the most volcanically active areas on the planet with eruptions being a regular occurrence.

The Reykjanes Peninsula, home to about 30,000 people has experienced eight eruptions since 2021 after its geological systems became active again.

The eruption site is located a few kilometers northeast of Grindavik, a coastal town with a population of 3,800 people.

Grindavik has been evacuated and roads around the town are closed to ensure public safety. The eruption has led to the evacuation of the Blue Lagoon thermal spa, which remains closed.

Keflavik International Airport, Iceland’s main international airport remains operational. Passengers are advised to monitor flight information closely.

ISAVIA, the Icelandic airport operator has assured that they are well-prepared for such volcanic activities and do not foresee an immediate need to close the airport.

Iceland’s Meteorological Office reports intense seismic activity in the Sundhnúkur crater row. There are indications that magma propagation might be starting or has started.

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The Svartsengi volcanic system located north of Grindavik had been dormant for around 780 years until recent activity resumed.

Icelandic authorities have declared a state of emergency. Vidir Reynisson, head of Iceland’s Civil Protection and Emergency Management addressed that the eruption site “is not a tourist attraction and you must watch it from a great distance.”

Residents and tourists alike are being strongly urged to respect local restrictions and avoid the affected areas.

The Sundhnúkur fissure, part of the Svartsengi volcanic system is showing significant activity. This system is located just a few kilometers west of Fagradalsfjall, another volcanic system that was dormant for 6,000 years before erupting in March 2021.

Power has been cut off to Grindavik as a precaution by the energy provider HS Veitur. The Svartsengi power plant, which supplies electricity and water to thousands on the peninsula has been evacuated. Barriers have been erected to protect the facility, Grindavik, and the Blue Lagoon from lava flows.

Iceland’s history of volcanic eruptions includes the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajokull, which caused disruption to air travel between Europe and North America.

The ash cloud from that eruption led to the cancellation of over 100,000 flights over eight days. Current eruptions on the Reykjanes Peninsula have not had the same impact on air travel, thanks to better preparedness and response measures from agencies such as the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa has announced a temporary closure until at least May 31, with management contacting all affected customers regarding changes or cancellations.

Travellers are advised to stay updated with the latest information from the Icelandic Met Office and Safe Travel Iceland. While other parts of Iceland remain safe to visit.

Tourists concerned about travel insurance coverage should check their policies carefully. Coverage for cancellations due to known volcanic activity may be limited.

Jonathan Frankham, general manager of World Nomads advises travellers to exercise common sense and travel wisely consulting airlines and travel providers for the latest information.

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