The Washington Post

Eruption near busy Iceland airport sparks travel fears

Tourists take photos near lava flows, ignoring warnings from officials

- BY ADELA SULIMAN AND MORGAN COATES

A massive volcano erupting close to a global travel hub, Iceland’s Keflavik Airport, led to close monitoring by officials and sparked fascinatio­n from people who ventured near the brightoran­ge lava flows despite warnings.

The Fagradalsf­jall volcano in southwest Iceland erupted at 1:18 p.m. local time Wednesday, according to the Icelandic Meteorolog­ical Office, which urged people to stay away from the sparsely populated area on the Reykjanes peninsula — though some still went up close to snap photograph­s with their children and to fly drones.

“I just made it to the volcano. … My mind is completely blown; it’s crazy,” one onlooker told the Associated Press. “The last thing that I would have imagined this morning when I woke up would be to be standing and looking at this. … It is so beautiful.”

Another man who had flocked to see the same volcano erupt last year said it was “absolutely incredible,” describing the lava as a mesmerizin­g “dancing fire.”

The eruption, classified as a volcanic fissure, is occurring about 10 miles from Keflavik Internatio­nal Airport and about 20 miles from the country’s capital, Reykjavik. As of Thursday morning, the airport — which has flights from Seattle, London and Frankfurt — remained open and operationa­l.

“Currently, there have been no disruption­s to flights to and from Iceland and internatio­nal flight corridors remain open,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Internatio­nal travelers will recall the 2010 eruption of the country’s Eyjafjalla­jokull volcano, which spewed huge ash clouds into the atmosphere, grounding air traffic and leaving millions stranded.

“What we know so far is that the eruption does not pose any risk to populated areas or critical infrastruc­ture,” Icelandic Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdott­ir said in a statement. “We will of course continue to monitor the situation closely.”

A volcanic fissure does not usually result in large explosions or significan­t dispersal of ash into the stratosphe­re. But people were warned to stay away because of the risk from noxious fumes and hot magma.

“The eruption follows intense seismic activity over the past few days,” the Foreign Ministry said. “It is considered to be relatively small and due to its location, there is low threat to populated areas or critical infrastruc­ture.”

The exact location of the eruption is in Meradalir, about one mile north of Mt. Stori-hrutur, according to the Icelandic Meteorolog­ical Office.

The area has experience­d “strong earthquake­s” in recent days, it added, warning of tremors, falling rocks and gas pollution. The same volcano also erupted last year, it said, and lasted about six months.

Volcanoes are a fact of life in Iceland, a country that sits atop the Mid-atlantic Ridge, caused by the separation of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. On average, the country experience­s a volcanic event about every four years.

However, the same geological activity is also responsibl­e for some of the country’s most dramatic natural features, such as black sand beaches and geothermal lagoons, which draw millions of foreign tourists.

The current volcanic response is being led by Iceland’s department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management alongside the Meteorolog­ical Office and University of Iceland. Scientists are also in the area with Coast Guard helicopter­s to assess the situation, the government said.

 ?? Marco Di Marco/associated Press ?? People look at the lava flowing on Fagradalsf­jall volcano in Iceland on Wednesday. Tourists ignored warnings and took pictures near the lava flow. The volcano is close to the busy Keflavik Airport.
Marco Di Marco/associated Press People look at the lava flowing on Fagradalsf­jall volcano in Iceland on Wednesday. Tourists ignored warnings and took pictures near the lava flow. The volcano is close to the busy Keflavik Airport.

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