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New Eruption Sparks Concern for Icelandic Town

New Eruption Sparks Concern for Icelandic Town

Another volcanic eruption has begun in south-west Iceland, prompting the evacuation of the famous geothermal Blue Lagoon spa and the small fishing town of Grindavik. The new fissure, located near Sundhnuksgigar on the Reykjanes peninsula, marks the fifth eruption in the area since December.

The Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) reported that the fissure, over 2.5 km (1.5 miles) long, is continuing to grow. A state of emergency has been declared, though air travel to and from Iceland remains unaffected.

Grindavik’s mayor, Fannar Jónasson, expressed concern about the substantial volume of lava flowing towards the town, much larger than previous eruptions. As a precaution, energy provider HS Veitur cut power to Grindavik. Despite evacuation orders, three residents have refused to leave. Officials strongly urged everyone in and near Grindavik to evacuate immediately, noting that all but one road into the town is now inaccessible.

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Footage from the eruption shows a dramatic scene with a wall of molten rock shooting up to 50 meters high and vast plumes of ash filling the sky. Natural history cinematographer Benjamin Hardman, documenting the eruption, described the experience as “totally surreal.”

The nearby Svartsengi power plant, crucial for providing electricity and water to the peninsula, has also been evacuated. Barriers have been erected around the power plant, Grindavik, and the Blue Lagoon to protect them from the lava flows.

Prior to Wednesday’s eruption, officials noted “intense earthquake activity.” Geophysicist Ari Trausti Gudmundsson mentioned that scientists had anticipated a new eruption for some time. Most of Grindavik’s 4,000 residents were permanently evacuated in November, prior to the eruptions in December, January, February, and March. The January eruption saw lava flow into Grindavik’s streets, engulfing three homes. Some residents had returned to less risky neighborhoods.

Iceland, situated over the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, has 33 active volcanic systems. The Reykjanes Peninsula, experiencing its eighth eruption since 2021, appears to be entering a new volcanic era that could last for decades or even centuries. The last period of volcanic activity on the peninsula, 800 years ago, persisted for decades.