Villages cleared after volcano erupts in Iceland

A volcano erupted near a glacier in Iceland, shooting up ash and molten lava and forcing the evacuation of hundreds from nearby villages yesterday.



The eruption at the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, located near a glacier of the same name, shot ash and molten lava into the air but scientists called it mostly peaceful. It occurred just before midnight Saturday at a fissure on a slope — rather than at the volcano's summit — so scientists said there was no imminent danger that the glacier would melt and flood the area.



TV footage showed lava flowing along the fissure, and many flights were canceled due to the threat of airborne volcanic ash. After an aerial survey, scientists concluded the eruption struck near the glacier in an area that had no ice.



"This is the best possible place for an eruption," said Tumi Gudmundsson, a geologist at the University of Iceland.



Nonetheless, officials sent phone messages to 450 people between the farming village of Hvolsvollur and the fishing village of Vik, some 100 miles southeast of the capital, Reykjavik, urging them to evacuate immediately.



A state of emergency was declared although there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage. Evacuation centers were set up near the town of Hella, but many people returned to their homes later yesterday. The most immediate threat was to livestock because of the caustic gases the eruption released.



"We had to leave all our animals behind," Eli Ragnarsdottir, a 47-year-old farmer, told RUV, Iceland's national broadcaster from an evacuation center. "We got a call and a text message ... and we just went."



Scientists say it is difficult to predict what comes next. Like earthquakes, it is hard to predict the exact timing of volcanic eruptions.



"It could stop tomorrow, it could last for weeks or months. We cannot say at this stage," Gudmundsson said.



The last time there was an eruption near the 100-square-mile Eyjafjallajokull glacier was in 1821, and that was a "lazy" eruption — it lasted slowly and continuously for two years.



The latest eruption came after thousands of small earthquakes rocked the area in the past month. Scientists in Iceland have been monitoring the volcano using seismometers and global positioning instruments, but Gudmundsson noted that the beginning of Saturday's eruption was so indistinct that it initially went undetected by the instruments.



"The volcano has been inflating since the beginning of the year, both rising and swelling," said Pall Einarsson, a geophysicist at the University of Iceland's Institute of Earth Science. "Even though we were seeing increased seismic activity, it could have been months or years before we saw an eruption like this ... we couldn't say that there was an imminent risk for the area."



Einarsson and Gudmundsson said the eruption could trigger a more damaging eruption at the nearby Karla volcano, which lies under the thick Myrdalsjokull icecap and threatens massive flooding and explosive blasts if it erupts.



"One of the possible scenarios we're looking at is that this small eruption could bring about something bigger. This said, we can't speculate on when that could happen," Einarsson said.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
peopleJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Systems Analyst (Retail)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Up to 20% bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: An...

Technical BA - Banking - Bristol - £400pd

£400 per hour: Orgtel: Technical Business Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £400pd...

Head of Digital Marketing,London

To £58k Contract 12 months: Charter Selection: Major household name charity se...

Lead Hand - QC

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Lead Hand - QCProgressive are recruiting...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice