Hundreds evacuated as volcano erupts in Iceland

Authorities evacuated hundreds of people after a volcano erupted beside a glacier in southern Iceland, Iceland's civil protection agency said today.

The eruption occurred last night beside the Eyjafjallajokull glacier, the fifth largest in Iceland. No damage or injuries were immediately reported.

Authorities initially said the eruption was below the glacier. However, scientists conducting an aerial survey in daylight located the eruption and it did not occur below ice, lessening the chances of flooding from a glacier melt.

"This is the best possible place for an eruption, as the area is not covered by ice," said Tumi Gudumundsson, a geologist at the University of Iceland said in an interview with the national broadcaster, RUV.

Scientists can see lava flows in the half-mile long fissure, and authorities are watching for further activity.

Fearing flooding, authorities evacuated some 450 people in the area 100 miles southeast of the capital, Reykjavik, as a precaution but no damage or injuries have been reported, said Vidir Reynisson, the department manager for the Icelandic Civil Protection Department.

A state of emergency has been declared in communities near the 100 square mile glacier.

Three Red Cross centres were set up for evacuees in the village of Hella.

The Icelandic Civil Aviation Administration has ordered aricraft to stay 120 nautical miles away from the volcano area, essentially closing it off.

Three flights from the US - departing from Seattle, Washington; Orlando, Florida and Boston, Massachussetts - were diverted to Boston because of the volcano. All domestic flights were also canceled until further notice, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service Reported.

A European volcanic island in the North Atlantic, Iceland is largely an arctic desert with mountains, glaciers and volcanoes and agricultural areas in the lowlands close to the coastline.

The last time the volcano erupted was in the 1820s.



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