The Icelandic city of Grindavik, near the capital Reykjavik and home to about 4,000 inhabitants, has been on alert for days. after receiving the warning that it could be severely damaged by the possible eruption of a volcano in a matter of hours or days.
The city, in southwestern Iceland, was evacuated since Friday night after magma moving beneath the Earth’s crust caused hundreds of earthquakes in what experts believe is a sign of an eruption.
What is the city like and what is happening?
What is happening in Iceland?
Iceland is a volcanic island located in the North Atlantic that has a population of about 370,000 inhabitants. and an area of more than 100,000 square kilometers. This island overlaps the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a crack in the ocean floor that separates the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates.
Iceland also has 33 active volcanic systems, the largest number in Europe.
The country declared a state of emergency on Friday after a series of strong earthquakes hit the southwestern Reykjanes Peninsula.. This peninsula is a volcanic system with certain periodicity and every 800 years an episode of greater activity occurs.
The Icelandic authorities declared an emergency situation and They preemptively evacuated the city of Gindavík (southwest) due to the large number of earthquakes and indications that a considerable amount of magma is moving in the near-surface area.
(Also read: Iceland declares emergency after series of earthquakes and warns of volcano eruption)
Grindavik is located about 40 km from Reykjavík (the capital of Iceland) and is close to the Svartsengi geothermal plant, the main electricity and water utility for some 30,000 residents of the Reykjanes peninsula in the southwest of the country.
The city is also close to the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, a popular tourist destination that temporarily closed earlier this week as a precaution.
Three eruptions occurred near Fagradalsfjall, on the Reykjanes Peninsula, in March 2021, August 2022 and July 2023. All took place far from any infrastructure or populated areas.
But Vidir Reynisson, head of the Civil Protection and Emergency Management administration, says they are “really worried about all the houses and infrastructure in the area” (of Grindavik) due to the imminent risk of an eruption.
(You may be interested: A volcanic eruption is increasingly likely with a thousand new earthquakes in Iceland)
The movement of magma under the Earth’s crust has already caused cracks in roads and buildings in this city. The head of civil protection and emergency management in Iceland, Vidir Reynisson, said on Saturday that the fissure measured “about 15 km”, along which an eruption could occur “anywhere”.
According to the BBC, the town has also sunk more than one meter since Friday, when the emergency began, and is sinking at a rate of four centimeters per day, which could cause further damage to buildings or roads.
The situation is such that the inhabitants could barely return to their homes for a few minutes to pick up furniture, decorative objects and pets, in the presence of numerous police and civil protection personnel.
“We are a little desperate, stunned and sad, actually. When we think about the time and energy we put into building our house, it is sad,” said Hans Wierer, a resident of the city, on Sunday, when he went to retrieve some personal effects to your home.
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This Thursday, seismic activity remained stable near Grindavík (southwest of
Iceland), six days after the first tremors were detected, while authorities continue to consider an eruption likely.
Experts from the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) are closely monitoring how the flow of magma beneath the surface is slowing down, as well as the increase in sulfur dioxide (SO2) levels in the atmosphere of the last days.
“We believe there remains a possibility of an eruption. In the last eruptions we saw that it is precisely when this movement (of the magma) begins to reduce that the moment of the eruption approaches,” the IMO’s head of natural disaster monitoring, Kristín Jónsdóttir, told RUV public television.
We believe there remains a possibility of an eruption
Benedikt Ófeigsson of the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) had noted on Wednesday that The magma under Grindavík is likely to have come very close to the surface, possibly as close as 500 metres. and specified that the increase in SO2 levels measured in the atmosphere is proof of their proximity.
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“The probability of an eruption is still considered high. In the case of an eruption, the most likely location is the volcanic dam,” the IMO said in a statement.
That’s why, The Icelandic authorities have begun the construction of protective barriers against lava, 6 to 8 meters high, around the nearby Svartsengi power plant and the Blue Lagoon, the famous geothermal spa located in the area and whose closure has been extended until at least November 30.
Construction work could last between 30 and 40 days.
*With AFP and EFE
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