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Another volcanic eruption in Iceland threatens critical infrastructure

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Another volcanic eruption in Iceland threatens critical infrastructure

The advance warning time was only 40 minutes. Then lava fountains shot out of a crack in the earth again in Iceland. According to experts, there is no end in sight to the eruptions.

An aerial photo provided by the Icelandic military shows the eruption between Hagafell and Stóri-Skógfell.


The eruption did decrease, as geophysicist Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson said on Sunday morning. Nevertheless, the expert expects the strongest eruption to date to occur in the region near the Blue Lagoon. The popular tourist attraction, where around 700 people were on Saturday evening, was evacuated, as was the town of Grindavík, around 55 kilometers southwest of Reykjavik. The city was evacuated as a precaution in November. Of the once 4,000 residents, only a few had recently returned. Air traffic to Keflavik International Airport was not affected.

Threat to critical infrastructure

Specially constructed dams stopped and diverted the lava as planned, said Einar Hjörleifsson from the Icelandic Meteorological Office. There is currently no danger to people. However, the lava masses moved closer to an important district heating pipeline. An eruption in February disrupted district heating supplies for more than 20,000 people after lava flows destroyed roads and pipelines. The most important road in the south of the peninsula was also threatened. The authorities announced the construction of a new road.

The new eruption occurred on Saturday evening at 8:23 p.m. between Stóra-Skógfell and Sýlingafell on the Reykjanes Peninsula. During the eruption in mid-January, the lava also reached the foothills of Grindavík and destroyed several houses there – it was the first time in half a century that homes had been destroyed by lava masses in an eruption on the North Atlantic island.

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Just the beginning of a series of eruptions lasting years?

Some experts warn of a long-term threat to the area. Volcanic eruptions could last for years or even decades, warned expert Björn Lund from the Swedish University of Uppsala, among others. Authorities began building special dikes months ago to divert possible lava flows from homes and critical infrastructure.

The eruptions do not look like what you would imagine a classic volcanic eruption to be: the lava does not bubble up from a volcanic mountain, but flows out of an elongated crack in the earth, which is why this type of eruption is also called a fissure eruption. Unlike the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010, such eruptions do not produce a large ash cloud – the volcanic glacier paralyzed international air traffic for days with such a kilometer-high cloud.

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