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Icelandic Lava Flows Reach Evacuated Fishing Town, Burning Down Homes

5 months ago
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An evacuation order was issued on Monday night for the residents of the Icelandic fishing town of Grindavík after volcanic fissures opened nearby, sending rivers of lava flowing into the community and setting some homes on fire. This marked the second eruption the area has endured in recent weeks.

Grindavík, located on Iceland's Reykjanes peninsula about 43 miles southwest of the capital Reykjavik, had already been evacuated in November due to increased seismic activity. Authorities had detected signs earlier that day that molten magma was once again approaching the surface. The Icelandic Meteorological Office recorded an earthquake just hours before the fiery eruption.

When the volcano did erupt, it produced cracks in the ground through which lava emerged and began streaming toward the town. An eyewitness video broadcast by Iceland’s RÚV public media outlet showed one thick red river of lava approaching Grindavík, with flames visibly engulfing buildings just meters away from other homes.

Fortunately, according to Hjordis Gudmundsdottir, a spokesperson for Iceland’s Civil Protection Agency, there was no immediate threat to human life.

While some structures sadly could not be saved from destruction, many residents had not yet returned after November's eruption, having heeded warnings from experts like Gudmundsdottir that lava could potentially damage buildings and infrastructure protected by anti-lava barriers.

In response to the eruption, Iceland raised its volcanic alert level. The Icelandic Coast Guard also deployed a helicopter for aerial monitoring of the hazardous situation.

Authorities ordered about 60 households, representing 10% of Grindavík's population, to evacuate their homes by Monday evening. The National Commissioner of Police later announced that residents should plan to stay away for approximately three weeks, with exceptions permitting brief visits to retrieve valuables.

Gudmundsdottir predicted lava may continue flowing but said the nearby Keflavík International Airport remains safe for air travel since the eruption has not produced problematic ash. "This eruption will not affect Keflavik airport or air travel in general,” she reassured.

Grindavík is additionally home to Iceland's world-famous Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, beloved by tourists for its therapeutic steaming waters. The December fissure from the earlier eruption had measured around four kilometers long, while geologists observed the current cracks extend roughly one-quarter that length.

Seismologists will undoubtedly keep monitoring the active landscape. Sunday's eruption is another reminder that the Nordic island nation remains volatile and unpredictable, with molten forces simmering just below the surface.



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