On Sunday morning, a volcano erupted after a series of earthquakes triggered it on the Reykjanes Peninsula. The volcano is within half a mile from Grindavk, a tiny fishing village where residents were advised to evacuate immediately. It is the third eruption in the last few months on the peninsula. “A daunting period of upheaval has begun on the Reykjanes peninsula,” said President Gudni Th. Johannesson.
The same volcano erupted on Dec. 18, however, the lava flowed in the opposite direction of the town. In November, another eruption occurred that resulted in the town of Grindavík to evacuate. Many were allowed to return home by Dec. 22, only to be evacuated on Jan, 13 following another eruption. This series of eruptions on the Svartsengi volcanic system occurred after about 800 years of no activity.
Molten lava traveled to the fishing town, setting at least three homes aflame. Iceland’s Meteorological Office is unsure how long the eruption will last. The town has about 4,000 residents who were left to watch as their neighborhood was consumed by lava through live streams online as they fled their homes. A volcanologist states that GPS measurements indicate that magma is still flowing underneath the town of Grindavík.
It is currently unclear when residents will return to their homes, leaving many worried that they will have to start somewhere new rather than returning to Grindavík. Justice Minister Gudrun Hafsteinsdottir said it might take months before citizens can go back, at least not until the town is considered safe.
The government believes this eruption is not life-threatening, as citizens have evacuated safely and the lava flow has slowed down. Emergency workers have built defensive walls to stop much of the lava flow from entering the town. There have been no casualties. However, one worker has been reported missing after falling into a crack caused by the last eruption.
This volcanic eruption is unexpected to spew a large amount of ash into the air. No flights have been canceled, and all operations at Keflavik Airport are running as usual. In 2010, when the Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted, it disrupted trans-Atlantic air traffic for months due to the amount of ash produced.
Iceland sits upon a volcanic hotspot in the North Atlantic. It’s a popular area for seismic activity, with 32 active volcanoes in the country. They average about one eruption every four to five years. “We continue to hope for as good an outcome as possible, in the face of these tremendous forces of nature,” said the president.
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