Icelandic volcano erupts near Reykjavik

A volcano in southwest Iceland on the Reykjanes Peninsula erupted on Friday evening, following thousands of small tremors in the region in recent weeks, the country’s meteorological office said.

The peninsula, located southwest of the capital Reykjavik, is a seismic hotspot, recording at least 40,000 earthquakes in recent weeks.

“The volcanic eruption started at Fagradalsfjall”, the Icelandic Meteorological Office said in a tweet, referring to a mountain about 30 kilometers southwest of the capital on the way to the island’s main airport.

Images on local media websites showed a glowing night sky.

“I can see the bright red sky from my window,” said Rannveig Gudmundsdottir, a resident of the town of Grindavik, just 8 km from the eruption. “Everyone here gets in their car to drive there,” she said.

An emergency vehicle closes the road to Grindavik near the eruption, lit in red by the light of the volcano © AFP via Getty Images

A helicopter with scientific staff had been scrambled to assess the extent of the eruption, the office said.

Reykjavik Keflavik International Airport was not closed after the eruption, but each airline had to decide for itself whether it wanted to fly or not, IMO said.

The country only had the day before opened its borders to vaccinated foreigners, a move that made the North Atlantic island one of the first nations in the world to reopen to tourists after the latest coronavirus restrictions.

The eruption posed no immediate danger to residents of Grindavik or to critical infrastructure, IMO said.

“I think we couldn’t have hoped for better than this,” said its volcanic hazards coordinator, Sara Barsotti.

Unlike the 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, which disrupted around 900,000 flights and forced hundreds of Icelanders out of their homes, this eruption is not expected to spit much ash or smoke into the atmosphere, said the ‘IMO.

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