Iceland warns tourists to avoid Fagradalsfjall as volcano erupts in Reykjavik

 Thursday, August 4, 2022 

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A volcanic erupted in Iceland near the capital Reykjavik on Wednesday, the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) said as live images on local media showed lava spewing out of a fissure in the ground. The eruption was some 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Reykjavik, near the site of the Mount Fagradalsfjall volcano that erupted for six months in March-September 2021, mesmerising tourists and spectators who flocked to the scene.

The eruption has started near Fagradalsfjall. Exact location has yet to be confirmed. A volcano has erupted on a mountain near Iceland’s capital Reykjavik after days of rising earthquake activity in the area, the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) said on Wednesday.

The images and livestreams by local news outlets in Ireland showed lava and smoke spewing from a fissure in the ground on the side of the Fagradalsfjall mountain, which last year saw an eruption that lasted six months.

The tourists and residents should avoid the area due to poisonous gases, although there was no immediate risk of damage to critical infrastructure, the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management said in a statement.

A “code red” was declared to prohibit airplanes from flying over the site although helicopters were sent in to survey the situation, the IMO told.

If the outbreak was confirmed to be similar to the fissures seen last year, the aviation alert would likely be lowered to orange, signalling less danger, an agency spokesperson said. Currently, there have been no disruptions to flights to and from Iceland and international flight corridors remain open,” the country’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

The Reykjanes Peninsula is a volcanic and seismic hot spot, and the outbreak took place just 25 km (15 miles) from Reykjavik and 15 km from the nation’s international airport. In March last year, lava fountains erupted spectacularly in the area from a fissure 500 to 750 metres (1,640 to 2,460 feet) long, continuing until September and attracting thousands of Icelanders and tourists to the scene.

Unlike the eruption in 2010 of the ice-covered Eyjafjallajokull volcano, which halted some 100,000 flights and forced hundreds of Icelanders from their homes, this eruption is not expected to spew much ash or smoke into the atmosphere. Located between the Eurasian and the North American tectonic plates, among the largest on the planet, Iceland frequently experiences earthquakes and has high volcanic activity as the two plates move in opposite directions.

This volcanic eruption has started near Fagradalsfjall. Exact location has yet to be confirmed,” the IMO, which monitors seismic activity, wrote on Twitter. This is later said the eruption started in the valley of “Meradalir, about 1.5 km north of Stora Hrut”.

While there was no ash plume, the IMO said it was “possible that pollution can be detected due to the gas release”.

No airline flights were currently affected, Iceland’s national airport authority told. Mount Fagradalsfjall belongs to the Krysuvik volcanic system on the Reykjanes peninsula in southwestern Iceland. Iceland has 32 volcanic systems currently considered active, the highest number in Europe. The country has had an eruption every five years on average.

The vast island near the Arctic Circle straddles the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a crack on the ocean floor separating the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. The shifting of these plates is in part responsible for Iceland’s intense volcanic activity.

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