Iceland, November 14, 2023: On Friday, Iceland declared a “state of emergency” after experiencing a series of around 800 earthquakes in 14 hours in the southwest region of the peninsula. The region witnessed 1,400 earthquakes in the previous 24 hours, and over 24,000 have been recorded on the peninsula since late October this year.
In an official statement, the Icelandic authorities warned that the seismic activity may possibly also result in volcanic eruptions in the nation. The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management of Iceland said, “The National Police Chief… declares a state of emergency for civil defense due to the intense earthquake activity at Sundhnjukagigar, north of Grindavik”.
The administration added in their statement, “Earthquakes can become larger than those that have occurred, and this series of events could lead to an eruption”.
On Friday, around 4,000 small to medium-intensity earthquakes hit the southwest region of the Reykjanes Peninsula, with the highest being 5.1 magnitudes. Authorities are preparing for the safety of citizens with the view of a possible volcanic eruption in a few days. A complete evacuation of Grindavik, a fishing town located near the capital Reykjavik with a population of around 3,000 residents, has been ordered.
The Icelandic Meteorological Office said there was a “considerable” risk of an eruption due to magma intrusion. The region has seen several eruptions in unpopulated areas in recent years. The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, one of Iceland’s biggest tourists destinations, was temporarily closed as a precaution earlier this week.
A Recent Hub of Volcanic Eruptions:
Reykjanes is a volcanic and seismic hot spot southwest of the capital. The Reykjanes peninsula has been a recent hub for eruptions, recently near the Fagradalsjall volcano; the first started on March 19 ,2021, followed by another on August 03, 2022, and July 10, 2023. The Fagradalsfjall system, which is said to be around 6 km wide and 19 km long, had remained inactive for centuries before its recent eruptions. Volcanologists believe the new cycle of increased activity could last for several decades or centuries.
Iceland currently has 33 active volcanic systems, making it the highest in Europe. Iceland is situated in the North Atlantic region, straddling the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, technically the longest mountain range in the world, but on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. The ridge in the ocean floor separates the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, making the region prone to frequent earthquakes.
On average, Iceland experiences around 26,000 earthquakes a year, according to a Reykjavik-based natural history museum. Most of them are imperceptible and unconcerned.
Prior to March 2021, a massive eruption in April 2010 was recorded on another Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajokull, in the south of Iceland. It led to the cancellation of 100,000 flights, leaving more than one million travelers stranded.
Edited by: Sri Soudamini Konka
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