A volcano located in the Reykjanes Peninsula in southwestern Iceland, the country's most populated area, erupted on Monday evening. The eruption produced lava fountains reaching high into the air, with the glow visible miles away in Reykjavik's city centre.
The 2.5-mile-long fissure is situated close to the Svartsengi geothermal power plant and the town of Grindavík. Concerns over heightened seismic activity last month led to the evacuation of Grindavík, suggesting an eruption was probable. Initial assessments indicated the eruption occurred in one of the worst locations, posing immediate dangers to the deserted town and power plant.
However, after surveying the eruption site by air, volcanologists found the situation less dire than first assumed. The eruption's scale exceeded predictions, though the lava's unpredictable flow direction remains the principal threat.
"This eruption is larger than previous ones in the Reykjanes area," said Magnus Gudmundsson, an early eyewitness of the eruption. The lava currently flows 1.6 miles north of Grindavík, stated Kristín Jonsdottir of the Icelandic Meteorological Office's volcanic activity department.
With Grindavík's evacuation, Ulfar Ludviksson, a police spokesperson, said the eruption presently endangers no one. Still, authorities advised the public to avoid proximity. Hjordis Gudmundsdottir of the Civil Protection Department emphasized that this was no sightseeing volcano and urged distance. “The fissure is spreading rapidly,” she added.
Although earthquakes foreshadowed an eruption for weeks, Monday's event came without warning. Just a day earlier, the nearby popular Blue Lagoon tourist spot had reopened, with eruption fears subsiding.
Iceland's extensive eruption history explains the country's preparedness. Four eruptions have occurred in the Reykjanes Peninsula over the past two years. Hence, November's Grindavík evacuation notice stated Iceland was highly ready for such happenings, possessing one of the world’s most effective volcanic preparedness strategies.