The Daily Telegraph
Iceland declares state of emergency over imminent volcanic eruption
‘The magma is now at a very shallow depth so we are expecting an eruption within a couple of hours at the shortest’
‘We are really concerned about all the houses and infrastructure in the area’
ICELAND is expecting a major volcanic eruption within days or even hours, as the pressure of lava beneath the ground accumulates at “an unprecedented rate”.
A river of molten rock is now just 2,500ft beneath the south-western town of Grindavik, about 25 miles from the capital, Reykjavik.
The eruption could cause major damage to the town which was evacuated over the weekend as magma shifting beneath the Earth’s crust caused hundreds of earthquakes.
Iceland, which has 33 active volcanic systems, has declared a state of emergency as experts say an eruption is imminent as the magma forces its way upwards on the Reykjanes
It is likely to happen at some point along a 10-mile-long fissure that has opened up near Grindavik, damaging buildings, causing cracks in roads and subsidence at a golf course.
The fissure continues into the sea so the eruption could take place on the ocean floor, an event which would send up a giant ash cloud as super-heated rock comes into contact with cold water.
It is close to the Svartsengi geothermal plant, the main supplier of electricity and water to 30,000 residents as well as a freshwater reservoir.
Grindavik, which has a population of 4,000, is also near the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa resort, one of Iceland’s main tourist attractions, which has been closed due to the uptick in seismic activity.
Roads into the town have been blocked other than for emergency vehicles.
“We are really concerned about all the houses and the infrastructure in the area,” Vidir Reynisson, the head of Iceland’s civil protection agency said.
A tunnel of magma was at a depth of 5,000ft early on Saturday but is now rising towards the surface.
“The magma is now at a very shallow depth, so we’re expecting an eruption within a couple of hours at the shortest, but at least within a couple of days,” Mr Reynisson said.
The Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) has for several days observed magma accumulating under the Earth’s surface at a depth of about three miles. Since Friday, it has been rising vertically in a dyke.
Sara Barsotti, IMO’S volcanic hazards coordinator said: “What we are seeing now is an unprecedented event. We are talking about velocities for this process and volumes or inflow rates that are much higher than what we have seen on the peninsula so far.”
Reykjanes is a seismic hot spot and three eruptions have taken place on the peninsula in recent years near the Fagradalsfjall volcano.
In March 2021, lava fountains erupted spectacularly from a fissure in the ground measuring between 1,640ft and 2,460ft long.
Prior to the 2021 eruption, the Reykjanes peninsula had been dormant for eight centuries.
In recent weeks, thousands of tremors have been recorded around the volcano.
Iceland straddles the Mid-atlantic Ridge, a crack in the ocean floor separating the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates.
A massive eruption in April 2010 at another Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano, in the south of the island – forced the cancellation of about 100,000 flights throughout Europe, leaving more than 10 million passengers stranded.
In 1783 about a quarter of the Icelandic population was killed when the Laki/skaftareldar volcano erupted.