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Iceland volcano erupts on Reykjanes peninsula

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Dec 19, 2023, 6:28:18 AM12/19/23
A volcano has erupted on the Reykjanes peninsula of south-west Iceland
after weeks of intense earthquake activity.

About 4,000 people were evacuated from the fishing town of Grindavik
earlier this month, and the nearby Blue Lagoon geothermal spa was closed.

The eruption started north of the town at 22:17 local time (22:17 GMT),
the Icelandic Met Office said.

It is not expected to bring the same level of disruption as one in 2010,
which halted European air travel.

Watch live: Icelandic volcano erupts
The region around the capital Reykjavik has been experiencing an increase
in earthquake activity since late October.

The Met Office said that the eruption was located about 4km (2.5 miles)
north-east of Grindavik and the seismic activity was moving towards the

Images and videos posted on social media showed lava bursting from the
volcano just an hour after an earthquake swarm, a series of seismic
events, was detected.

The eruption can be seen from Reykjavik, which is about 42km north-east of

One eyewitness there told the BBC that half of the sky in the direction of
the town was "lit up in red" from the eruption, and smoke could be seen
billowing into the air.

Police have warned people to stay away from the area.

The length of the crack in the volcano is about 3.5km, with the lava
flowing at a rate of around 100 to 200 cubic metres per second, the Met
Office said.

It added that this was many times more than in previous eruptions on the
Reykjanes peninsula in recent years.

'Quite spectacular'
A senior police officer at the Civil Defence told national broadcaster RUV
that the eruption had happened quickly and appeared to be "quite a large

Vidir Reynisson said the lava appeared to be flowing in all directions
from a large crack in the volcano.

Iceland's foreign minister, Bjarni Benediktsson said on X, formerly
Twitter, that "there are no disruptions to flights to and from Iceland,
and international flight corridors remain open".

"The jets [of lava] are quite high, so it appears to be a powerful
eruption at the beginning," he said.

Hallgrimur Indrioason, a reporter for the state-owned Icelandic National
Broadcasting Service (RUV), said the eruption could be seen from Reykjavik
- about 50km away - and described the view was "quite spectacular".

Grindavik evacuated
Iceland has been on high alert for a potential volcano eruption for
several weeks, and last month authorities ordered people to leave
Grindavik as a precaution.

There were no reports of injuries.

In April 2010, an ash cloud from the Eyjafjallajokull volcanic eruption
caused the largest closure of European airspace since World War Two, with
losses estimated at between 1.5bn and 2.5bn euros (£1.3-2.2bn; $1.6-

Volcanologist Dr Evgenia Ilyinskaya told the BBC that there would not be
the same level of disruption as 2010, as these volcanoes in south-west
Iceland are "physically not able to generate the same ash clouds".

The Eyjafjallajokul volcano, in southern Iceland, is about 140km (87
miles) from the volcano on the Reykjanes peninsula.

How 2010 volcano chaos unfolded: in graphics
Speaking from Iceland, Dr Ilyinskaya, associate professor of volcanology
at Leeds University, said local people had been both "fearing and waiting
for" the volcano to erupt.

"There was a lot of uncertainty. It was a difficult period of time for
local people," she said.

She added that authorities were preparing for potential lava flows that
could destroy homes and infrastructure, including the Blue Lagoon, a
popular tourist destination.

"At the moment it seems not to be threatening, although it remains to be
seen," she said.

Iceland's Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir said defences recently
constructed would have a positive effect.

She said her thoughts were with the local community and she was hoping for
the best despite the "significant event".

President Gudni Johannesson said safeguarding lives was the main priority
but that every effort would be made to protect structures too.
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