A volcano has erupted in southwest Iceland, the fifth eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula since 2021. The town of Grindavík, previously evacuated in November, finds itself under risk as volcanic fissures have opened on roads in the area. This eruption comes just weeks after the last one.
Iceland’s National Commissioner of Police ordered the evacuation of Grindavík, a fishing town located about 70 kilometers southwest of Reykjavík, by Monday night.
The decision was made by the opening of volcanic fissures on the roads surrounding the town. The Icelandic Civil Protection Agency raised the alert level.
The evacuation order is expected to be in effect for the next three weeks, with exceptions for authorities to conduct official business and for residents to salvage valuables for short periods.
The country is struggling with the challenges by volcanic activity, and Grindavík, known for being home to the famed Blue Lagoon.
The eruption followed warnings from Iceland’s meteorological office, which had reported an earthquake just hours before the volcanic activity.
The office had expressed concerns about the higher risk associated with volcanic fissures in its previous assessment.
The amount of magma reaching a level similar to the previous eruption in December, with authorities fearing that the magma could migrate further south, reaching Grindavík town.
The Reykjanes peninsula has been experiencing volcanic activity, with the December eruption considered the largest so far.
A state of emergency was declared in November, leading to the evacuation of Grindavík residents. The weeks saw defensive walls constructed around the volcano in an attempt to redirect magma away from the town.
Iceland, situated on a tectonic plate boundary, is home to 32 active volcanoes. The continuous movement of the North American and Eurasian plates, along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, results in frequent seismic and volcanic events.
While eruptions are common in Iceland, they often occur in uninhabited areas. However, the Reykjanes peninsula has seen a series of eruptions that has direct threat to populated areas.
The Bárðarbunga volcanic system’s eruption in 2014, which covered a vast area with lava, is as a caution to the country’s geological dynamics.
Unlike the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010, which caused disruption due to ash clouds affecting airspace over Europe.
The eruption began early on a Sunday morning, shortly after authorities had warned of an event. A slow-moving river of lava emerged, inching south towards Grindavík.
Initial reports showed that a crack had opened on both sides of the defensive barriers constructed north of the town, allowing lava to flow towards inhabited areas.
The Icelandic Meteorological Office’s live video feed showed the lava bubbling near vacant houses. President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson made sure that the public’s lives aren’t in danger, although infrastructure could be under threat.
The Civil Protection agency raised its alert level to emergency, indicating the harm to people, property and the environment.
Rescue and emergency services are involved in managing the situation. Evacuation efforts, alongside monitoring by the Icelandic Coast Guard helicopter, are to ensure the safety of residents.