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Volcano erupts on Iceland's Reykjanes Peninsula weeks after evacuation

A volcano has erupted in Iceland about 1.8 miles from a town that was evacuated weeks ago in preparation for the event.
Volcano erupts on Iceland's Reykjanes Peninsula weeks after evacuation
Posted at 5:25 PM, Dec 18, 2023

A volcanic eruption started Monday night on Iceland's Reykjanes Peninsula, turning the sky orange and prompting the civil defense to be put on high alert.

The eruption appears to have occurred about 2.4 miles from the town of Grindavík, the Icelandic Meteorological Office said. 

Grainy webcam video showed the moment of the eruption as a flash of light illuminating the sky at 22:17 local time. As the eruption spread, magma, or semi-molten rock, could be seen spewing along the ridge of a hill.

"The magma flow seems to be at least a hundred cubic meters per second, maybe more, so this would be considered a big eruption in this area at least," Vidir Reynisson, head of Iceland’s Civil Protection and Emergency Management told the Icelandic public broadcaster, RUV.

A coast guard helicopter will attempt to confirm the exact location and size of the eruption.

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In November, police evacuated the town of Grindavik after strong seismic activity in the area damaged homes and raised fears of an imminent eruption. Grindavik, a fishing town of 3,400, sits on the Reykjanes Peninsula about 31 miles southwest of the capital, Reykjavik, and not far from Keflavik Airport, Iceland's main facility for international flights. The nearby Blue Lagoon geothermal resort, one of Iceland's top tourist attractions, has been shut at least until the end of November because of the danger.

Iceland sits above a volcanic hotspot in the North Atlantic and averages an eruption every four to five years. The most disruptive in recent times was the 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, which spewed huge clouds of ash into the atmosphere and grounded flights across Europe for days because of fears ash could damage airplane engines.

Scientists say a new eruption would likely produce lava but not an ash cloud.

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

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