Iceland: eruption in a volcanic fissure near Reykjavik
A volcanic eruption began near Iceland’s capital Reykjavik on Wednesday from a fissure that was spewing steaming lava near the site of Mount Fagradalsfjall, where a volcano had previously erupted in 2021. The eruption, located at about 40 kilometers from Reykjavik, lets appear jets of molten lava turning into dark rock as the material cools and which lets out a bluish smoke.
A crack with an estimated length of 300 meters
The Meteorological Institute of Iceland, which monitors seismic activity, estimated the length of the crack at around 300 meters. The latter specified that the eruption had started in the valley of Meradalir, less than a kilometer from the eruption of 2021. On Wednesday, a lava flow emerged from the ground, projecting incandescent pieces about twenty meters in l air, before turning into a carpet of black rock.
A hundred onlookers moved to the area of the eruption, marveling at the sight of boiling lava and the sound of the rumble as the magma gushes out, noted an AFP journalist. Despite the absence of an ash cloud, the institute considered “possible that pollution is detected due to gas fumes”.
Gases from rashes can be a health hazard
Gases emanating from volcanic eruptions, including sulfur dioxide, can rise in the immediate vicinity and pose a health hazard or even be fatal. These types of pollution can also be carried by the wind. On Tuesday evening, the Meteorological Institute announced that the likelihood of another eruption near Mount Fagradalsfjall “in the coming days or weeks” was considered “substantial”.
Since Saturday, nearly 10,000 tremors had been detected, including two with a magnitude greater than 5. Contacted by AFP, the National Airports Authority of Iceland indicated that no flight was affected by the volcano for the moment, adding that she was monitoring the situation “accordingly”.
An eruption drew 430,000 visitors last year
“The risk to populated areas and critical infrastructure is considered very low and there has been no disruption to flights,” the foreign ministry said on Twitter. More than an hour after the eruption began, a commercial flight could be seen flying low over the eruption site and heading for Keflavik, Reykjavik’s main airport.
Last year, Iceland experienced an eruption in a relatively easily accessible area, making the event a real tourist attraction. The eruption, which saw more than 140 million cubic meters of magma pour out over a six-month period, attracted more than 430,000 visitors according to the Icelandic Tourist Board. The eruption was officially declared over after nine months, in December 2021.
People urged to stay away
On Wednesday, the emergency services and the police, on site to assess the level of danger and possible gas contamination, encouraged the population to stay away from the area. Icelandic President Gudni Johannesson also called for vigilance. “I just want people to be careful and know more before they jump into the unknown. If this eruption is like the last, there will be enough time, so there’s no reason to rush,” he told English media Iceland Monitor.
Mount Fagradalsfjall belongs to the Krysuvik volcanic system, located on the Reykjanes peninsula in southern Iceland. Before last year, the Reykjanes peninsula had not been the scene of eruptions for nearly eight centuries, but Icelandic specialists point out that the region has entered a new period of volcanic activity.
Iceland has 32 volcanic systems currently considered active, the most in Europe. On average, the country experiences an eruption every five years. Iceland straddles the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a fissure separating the Eurasian and North American tectonic plate. The movement of these plates is partly responsible for the country’s intense seismic activity.
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