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Iceland volcano live: Lava flows into Grindavik as country faces ‘daunting’ time after ‘worst-case scenario’

Thousands of residents evacuated after second volcanic eruption near Grindavik in less than a month

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar,Tara Cobham
Monday 15 January 2024 20:37 GMT
Buildings in Iceland’s Grindavik go up in flames as volcano’s lava reaches town

Lava is flowing into Grindavik as Iceland’s President said the country is facing a “daunting” time after a fresh volcanic eruption.

An expert fears the “worst-case scenario” has become the reality in Iceland as lava has flowed into people’s homes for the first time, torching at least three.

The Icelandic Meteorological Office said the volcano in the southwest of the country erupted for the second time in less than a month on Sunday, suspecting the fissure had since forced itself under the town of Grindavik.

President Gudni Th Johannesson said in a televised address on Sunday that “a daunting period of upheaval has begun on the Reykjanes peninsula”, where a long-dormant volcanic system has awakened.

When asked if the worst-case scenario had happened, Benedikt Halldórsson, an expert in earthquake activity at the Icelandic Meteorological Office, told The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service: “Yes, I don’t think it’s possible to imagine anything worse than it erupting in a settlement and lava flowing onto houses.”

Geophysicist Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson said on Monday morning that the eruption had “decreased considerably” overnight, but that it was impossible to say when it would end.

Nearly 4,000 residents were evacuated. No one has been killed in the eruptions, but a workman is missing after reportedly falling into a crack opened by the volcano.


Volcano erupts again sparking new evacuation

A volcano has erupted in southwest Iceland , posing an immediate threat to a nearby fishing town that had been evacuated over fears of an outbreak.

Early-morning live streams from the site showed fountains of molten rock spewing from fissures in the ground, the bright orange lava flow glowing against the dark sky.

The eruption began north of the town of Grindavik, which on Saturday was evacuated for a second time over fears that an outbreak was imminent amid a swarm of seismic activity, authorities said.

Iceland in recent weeks sought to build barriers of earth and rock to prevent lava from reaching Grindavik, but the latest eruption appeared to have penetrated the defences.

“According to the first images from the Coast Guard’s surveillance flight, a crack has opened on both sides of the defences that have begun to be built north of Grindavik,” the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) said in a statement.

“Lava is now flowing towards Grindavik. Based on measurements from the Coast Guard’s helicopter, the perimeter is now about 450 metres (1,500 feet) from the northernmost houses in the town,” it added.

Lydia Patrick14 January 2024 10:56

Second eruption in less than a month

It is the second volcanic eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula in southwest Iceland in less than one month and the fifth outbreak since 2021.

Last month, an eruption started in the Svartsengi volcanic system on Dec. 18 following the complete evacuation of Grindavik’s 4,000 residents and the closing of the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, a popular tourist spot.

More than 100 Grindavik residents had returned in recent weeks before Saturday’s renewed evacuation order, according to local authorities.

Iceland‘s civil protection agency on Sunday said it had raised its alert level to “emergency”, the highest on a three-level scale, signaling an event had begun that could cause harm to people, communities, property or the environment.

Lying between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, two of the largest on the planet, Iceland is a seismic and volcanic hot spot as the two plates move in opposite directions.

Iceland Eruption ( (AP Photo/ Marco Di Marco))
Lydia Patrick14 January 2024 10:57

Where is the lava flowing?

Sadly for Grindavik residents, the lava is flowing quickly towards town.

“We’re basically just looking at the fact that there’s lava flowing on both sides of the defensive wall. There is a volcanic fissure that has opened up inside it. Lava is flowing a few hundred meters north of the town, this is 400 to 500 meters. Lava flows towards Grindavík,” Kristín Jónsdóttir from the Icelandic Meteorological Office told RUV.

According to the meteorologist the lava will take just hours to reach the town,

Iceland Eruption ((AP Photo/ Marco Di Marco))
Lydia Patrick14 January 2024 11:20

Workers rescue their machinery from the lava flow

Workers scrambled to rescue their machinery which was being used to build defensive walls against lava flow into Grindavik, report RUV.

Víðir Reynisson, head of Civil Defence highlighted the importance of saving the machinery to the broadcaster, saying it was needed to build other defence structures around the country.

He insisted the protection of human lives was their biggest priority and the successful mission did not endanger workers.

Lydia Patrick14 January 2024 11:40

Resident fears the survival of his home as lava gets closer

Born and bred Grindavikian and father–of-two Siggeir Ævarsson, 38, shares his heartbreak as he watches the lava get closer to his home town.

The family has been living at his sister-in-law’s in Reykjavík since November when fears of an eruption first emerged forcing residents to flee.

He told The Independent: “I’m feeling quite numb at the moment, it’s so surreal.

“The electricity is out, and they're talking about shutting off the water too. So our houses might freeze before they burn up in the lava.”

Siggeir Ævarsson and his wife Soffía Sveinsdóttir (Provided)
Lydia Patrick14 January 2024 11:50

Volcanologist says fissure is around1km

Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson told RUV: “We were able to estimate the size of the crack that grew while we flew over. It is around one kilometre long. It is very similar to the lava from the last eruption, but approx. 1/4 of the size. “If the eruption continues with a similar force, it will be several hours until lava reaches the first houses.”

Picture of the volcanic eruption in December ((AP))
Lydia Patrick14 January 2024 12:00

Urgent plea for spectators to stay away

The director of Civil defence has urged sightseers to leave the area, saying their team have wasted ample time in directing people away from the danger zone.

He told the RUV: “Unfortunately, as always at the beginning of an eruption, people gather and want to go look at this, but I just think that people must realise the reality of the matter and what is going on.

“People must, please, give us a break to try to save what is possible to save.”

People watch as the night sky is illuminated caused by the eruption of a volcano in Grindavik on Iceland's Reykjanes Peninsula, Monday, Dec. 18, 2023 (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Lydia Patrick14 January 2024 12:20

Huge search for man who fell into crack that opened in Grindavik after Iceland earthquakes

A manhunt has been launched after a worker fell into an enormous crack created by the earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in Iceland.

The missing man was working to fill in crevasses formed by earthquakes and volcanic activity in the fishing town of Grindavik when he fell on Wednesday, according to local media.

The search, involving hundreds of rescue workers, had to be called off overnight on Thursday after landslides dropped tonnes of rocks on the area.

Barney Davis has the full report

Huge search for man who fell into crack opened in Grindavik after Iceland earthquakes

Mayor of Grindavik Fannar Jónasson says the accident took “everyone by surprise”

Lydia Patrick14 January 2024 12:40

Should I still travel to Iceland?

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office have issued new advice amid the imminent volcanic eruption.

In a statement they said: “A volcanic eruption started on the Reykjanes peninsula in south-west Iceland on 14 January, north of the town of Grindavík.

“All roads to Grindavík are closed and you should stay away from the area. Keflavik International Airport is operating as normal, but you should check for latest updates. Reykjavik and the rest of Iceland have not been impacted. You should monitor local media for updates and follow the authorities´ advice.”

This Nov. 18, 2023 image provided by Beth Harpaz shows visitors amid mini-icebergs on Diamond Beach on Iceland's South Coast ((Beth Harpaz via AP))
Lydia Patrick14 January 2024 13:00

Mapped- The volcano’s fissure and seismic activity

A map showing the latest earthquake activity (The Icelandic Met Office)
A map showing the fissure opening marked with a red line. (The Icelandic Met Office)
Lydia Patrick14 January 2024 13:20

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