State Of Emergency Declared Amid Volcano Threat

Emergency: Iceland Braced For Volcanic Eruption

Image of Eyjafjallajökull Volcano, Iceland., 2011. Credit: Nasa Public Domain/Creative Commons Attribution

ICELAND is today bracing itself due to the high risk of a volcanic eruption, with many of its citizens now prepared to evacuate if need be.

In the last few hours, it was announced that Iceland has entered a state of emergency/distress due to an imminent threat of a volcanic eruption. This situation follows a series of potent earthquakes on the Reykjanes peninsula in the southwest of the country writes the Guardian.

Iceland‘s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on X/Twitter: ‘The Government of Iceland continues to monitor the situation in close collaboration with the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management and the Icelandic Meteorological Office.’

At 1:47 am on Saturday, November 11, they later added: ‘The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management has declared an Emergency/Distress Phase on the Reykjanes peninsula, due to increased seismic activity. All residents of Grindavik are obliged to evacuate the town.’

On Friday, the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management issued a statement. It detailed that the national police chief had declared the emergency in response to significant seismic activity near Sundhnjukagigar, just north of Grindavik.

Seismic Activity And Eruption Warning

Experts are closely monitoring the escalating seismic events, which could potentially lead to a volcanic eruption. According to the Icelandic Met Office (IMO), an eruption might occur within several days. The village of Grindavik, located about three kilometres southwest of the quake’s epicentre, is on high alert. Approximately 4,000 residents are ready to evacuate if called upon.

Late on Friday, two powerful tremors were felt. These quakes, the largest measuring a magnitude of 5.2, affected areas as far as Reykjavik some 40 kilometres away. The tremors caused visible disturbances, shaking windows and household objects.

Community And Infrastructure At Risk

In light of the recent seismic activity, local authorities have taken precautionary measures. A key road to Grindavik was shut down after suffering damage from the earthquakes. The region has experienced over 24,000 tremors since late October. Yesterday, nearly 800 quakes were registered.

The Icelandic met Office (IMO) has identified a substantial build-up of magma about five kilometres underground. This magma, if it rises to the surface, could spark a volcanic eruption. They speculate that it may take days rather than hours for the magma to emerge. In the event of a fissure formation, lava would likely flow southeast and west, avoiding Grindavik.

The Reykjanes peninsula has witnessed three eruptions since 2021, occurring in March 2021, August 2022, and July 2023. Each of these eruptions was safely distant from populated areas and critical infrastructure.

The renowned Blue Lagoon, near Grindavik, has already closed as a precaution following another series of quakes. Additionally, the Svartsengi geothermal plant, the primary supplier of electricity and water to the peninsula’s 30,000 residents, is enacting contingency plans.

Previous Repercussions For Europe

Iceland, with its 33 active volcanic systems, holds the record for the most in Europe. The current threat is reminiscent of the events of 2010 in which a series of eruption in Eyjafjallajokull affected travellers around Europe and further afield.

The danger lay in the volcanic ash and its effect on jet engines, hence the closure of European airspace in what was the largest air-traffic disruption since the Second World War. The crisis left many stranded across Europe and the world, around one million of them were British travellers.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.