- Written by Oliver Slough and Marietta Moloney
- BBC News
Iceland’s meteorological office said gas pollution could hit Iceland’s capital after a volcano eruption began late Monday.
The volcanic eruption, which erupted on the Reykjanes Peninsula, southwest of Iceland, comes after weeks of earthquakes and violent tremors.
The fumes could reach Reykjavik on Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning.
About 4,000 people were evacuated last month from the fishing town of Grindavik, which was threatened by the lava flow.
A resident who lives near Grindavik described the “crazy” and “scary” scenes on Monday night, and said she could still see the volcano erupt on Tuesday.
Iceland has been preparing for volcanic activity for weeks. Since late October, the area around Reykjavik has been experiencing an increase in earthquake activity.
The eruption can be seen from Reykjavik, which is located about 42 kilometers northeast of Grindavik.
An eyewitness in the capital told the BBC that half the sky in the direction of the town “lit up red” as a result of the volcanic eruption, and smoke could be seen rising into the air.
In 2010, a volcanic eruption sent a plume of ash rising several kilometers into the atmosphere, disrupting air travel for several days in Europe.
Experts do not expect Monday’s eruption to cause the same level of travel chaos. On Tuesday afternoon, the Icelandic government said there had been no flight disruptions and that “international flight corridors remain open.”
The Icelandic Meteorological Office said at 12:30 GMT on Tuesday that the strength of the eruption was decreasing, but gases from the volcano could still reach Reykjavik.
Olhiur Halldorsdottir, who lives in Sandjeroy, about 20 kilometers from Grindavik, said she watched the eruption from her home.
She told the BBC: “It was crazy to see it with my own eyes. We’ve seen volcanic eruptions before, but this was the first time I felt really scared.”
“We are used to volcanoes [erupting]But this was crazy.”
She added that there was some “panic” on Monday evening, and that she had purchased additional supplies of water, but things were largely back to normal on Tuesday.
“I’m at work now and I can still see it. I can see the lights in the sky,” she said.
Hans Vera was evacuated from Grindavik last month, but before Monday’s eruption he had hoped to return home for Christmas.
But he said: “I don’t see them letting people near Grindavik in the future, so we’re back to the waiting game.”
“There are no disruptions to flights to and from Iceland, and international flight corridors remain open,” Iceland’s Foreign Minister, Bjarne Benediktsson, previously said on Twitter.
“Planes [of lava] “It’s very high, so it appears to be a strong eruption at first,” he said.
Hallgrímur Indrewasson, a correspondent for the state-owned Icelandic National Broadcasting Corporation (RUV), said the eruption could be seen dozens of kilometers away in Reykjavik, and described the scene as “absolutely stunning.”
Photos and videos posted on social media showed lava erupting from the volcano just an hour after an earthquake swarm – a series of seismic events – was detected.
Police warned people to stay away from the area.
The fissure in the volcano is about 3.5 kilometers long, with lava flowing at a rate of about 100 to 200 cubic meters per second, the Meteorological Office said, adding that this is several times more than recent eruptions on the Reykjanes Peninsula.
Grindavik was evacuated
Iceland remains on high alert for several weeks in anticipation of a possible volcanic eruption. Last month, authorities ordered people to leave Grindavik, on the southwest coast, as a precaution.
The Meteorological Office said the eruption occurred about 4 kilometers northeast of Grindavik. There were some concerns that the lava flow might reach Grindavik.
There have been no reports of any injuries so far.
Volcanologist Dr Evgeniya Ilinskaya told the BBC that there would not be the same level of disturbance as in 2010, because these volcanoes in southwest Iceland “were not physically capable of generating the same ash clouds”.
The Eyjafjallajökull volcano, in southern Iceland, is located about 140 kilometers from the volcano on the Reykjanes Peninsula that erupted on Monday.
Speaking from Iceland, Dr Ilinskaya, associate professor of volcanology at the University of Leeds, said locals were “fearing and waiting” for the eruption.
“There was a lot of uncertainty. It was a difficult time for local people,” she said.
She added that authorities were preparing for possible lava flows that could destroy homes and infrastructure, including the Blue Lagoon, a popular tourist destination.
“At the moment, it does not appear to be a threat, although that remains to be seen,” she added.
Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir said the recently built defenses would have a positive impact.
She said her thoughts are with the local community and is hoping for the best despite the “major event.”
President Gudni Johansson said protecting lives is the main priority but every effort will be made to protect structures as well.
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