New volcanic eruption on the Reykjanes Peninsula

New volcanic eruption on the Reykjanes Peninsula
New volcanic eruption on the Reykjanes Peninsula

A new volcanic eruption broke out on Wednesday on the Reykjanes peninsula in southwest Iceland, with red-orange lava surging from a fault near the town of Grindavik which had to be evacuated.

A huge cloud of white smoke stood out against the blue sky, and glowing orange lava gushed profusely from the ground through a fault near Sundhnúkgígar, north of the port city.

This is the fifth eruption in the region since December.

Two hours after the eruption began, lava was flowing less than a kilometer from a dam protecting the town of Grindavik.

Most of the town’s 4,000 residents had already been evacuated in November, shortly before the first volcanic eruption in the region.

In January, during a second eruption, three houses in Grindavik were engulfed in flames.

If most of the people who were in Grindavik on Wednesday – for work or for visits – left immediately, a few diehards refused, the country’s civil protection indicated on its Facebook page.

“Despite the response teams’ recommendations to leave the city, three residents remain in Grindavik. Such actions are not advisable,” she wrote.

Wednesday’s eruption comes three weeks after the end of the fourth, which lasted since March 16.

“The volcanic plume reached an altitude of approximately 3.5 kilometers at the start of the eruption and the length of the fault was estimated at more than a kilometer,” the IMO wrote on its website.

Ninety minutes later, civil protection said the fault had widened to 3.4 kilometers.

According to the IMO, the lava flows are significant: between 1500 and 2000 cubic meters per second.

“The chef’s surprise!”

The popular geothermal baths of the Blue Lagoon, a major tourist attraction in the country, hastily evacuated all their facilities on Wednesday, a few hours before the start of the eruption.

Maïa Biegatch, a 28-year-old French tourist, had just arrived at the Blue Lagoon parking lot when she immediately had to turn around.

“We received alerts on the phones, telling us ‘evacuate, ‘evacuate!’ and we moved away,” she told AFP. “It was the chef’s surprise!” she added with a burst of laughter.

The IMO had reported “intense seismic activity” before the eruption on Wednesday. But this should not disrupt air traffic.

Keflavik Airport, Iceland’s largest, remains open and “operating as usual”, Icelandic airport operator ISAVIA said on its website.

Civil protection nevertheless announced a state of emergency in the country.

400 shakes

In the days before the eruption, around 20 million cubic meters of magma had accumulated in the magma chamber beneath Svartsengi.

This place is home to a geothermal power plant which supplies electricity and hot water to 30,000 people on the Reykjanes peninsula.

As a precaution, it has been operating largely remotely since the first eruption in the region. Earthen dikes were erected around the power station to protect it.

On Monday, the IMO announced that around 400 earthquakes had been measured over the past seven days near the Sundhnúkgígar crater row.

Iceland is home to 33 active volcanic systems, the highest number in Europe. It is located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a fault in the ocean floor that separates the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates and causes earthquakes and eruptions.

The activity recorded since 2021 in this Reykjanes peninsula testifies to the awakening, after 800 years, of a long fault allowing the rise of magma, volcanologists agree.


ats, afp

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