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Volcano erupts in southwest Iceland after weeks of earthquakes

Volcano erupts in southwest Iceland after weeks of earthquakes
Published December 19, 2023 Updated December 19, 2023 Bookmark Bookmark Share WhatsApp Telegram Facebook Twitter Email LinkedIn

REYKJAVIK — A volcano in Iceland was erupting on Tuesday (Dec 19), with geysers of molten lava shooting into the pitch-black night sky after weeks of seismic activity had the region southwest of the capital on high alert.

The eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula, just north of the fishing town Grindavik, began Monday at around 10.17pm (Tuesday, 6.17am SGT) after an earthquake swarm, the Icelandic Meteorological Office said, referring to a series of small shakes. 

Live-streamed footage of the eruption showed glowing orange jets of lava spewing from a gash in the ground, surrounded by billowing clouds of red smoke.

“We hope for the best but it is clear this is a considerable eruption,” Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir wrote on Facebook. 

For weeks, the Nordic country had been anticipating an eruption on the peninsula southwest of the capital after intense earthquake activity, which prompted authorities to evacuate thousands of people and close the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa famed for its turquoise waters.

The meteorological office estimated that the volcano had opened a fissure about four kilometres long, with the southern end just three kilometres away from Grindavik.

By 3.00 am, the meteorological office said the intensity of the eruption had stabilised, but was unable to estimate how long it would last. 

“We now wait to see what the forces of nature have in store,” President Gudni Thorlacius Johannesson wrote on X, formerly Twitter. He added that protecting lives and infrastructure was the priority. 

Mr Vidir Reynisson, head of the Department of Civil Protection, urged people to stay away from the area, telling a local television station: “This is no tourist eruption”.

Public utility company Landsnet wrote on Facebook that it was very closely monitoring the eruption. 

Despite fears prior to the eruption of the possible havoc it could cause global travel, Reykjavik’s international airport remained open. Operator ISAVIA said: “For the time being, no disruptions to arrivals or departures at Keflavik airport.”