Deja vu as volcano erupts again near Iceland’s capital

A volcano erupted in Iceland near the capital Reykjavik on Wednesday, the Iceland Meteorological Office (IMO) said as live footage in local media showed lava rising from a fissure in the ground.

The eruption took place about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Reykjavik, near the site of the Mount Fagradalsfjall volcano in southwest Iceland, which erupted for six months in March-September 2021, mesmerizing tourists and onlookers who flocked to the site. .

This time, a streak of glowing red lava could be seen spouting from the ground, spreading into a smoldering mantle of black rock as it cooled and blue smoke rose from the mountainous landscape of the Reykjanes Peninsula.

Curious onlookers quickly arrived at the scene, spellbound by the sight of bubbling lava and the intense roar that could be heard rising from the ground as the lava erupted, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

IMO, which monitors seismic activity, has estimated the size of the fissure to be about 300 meters (yards). He said the eruption began in the Meradalir Valley, less than a kilometer from the site of last year’s eruption.

Wednesday’s eruption followed a period of intense seismic activity, with about 10,000 earthquakes detected since Saturday, including two with a magnitude of at least 5.0.

Although there was no ash cloud, the IMO said it was “possible that pollution could be detected due to the release of gas”.

Gases from a volcanic eruption – especially sulfur dioxide – can be high in the vicinity and can pose a health hazard and even be fatal.

Gas pollution can also be carried by the wind.

“The risk to populated areas and critical infrastructure is considered very low and there have been no disruptions to flights,” Iceland’s Foreign Ministry said on Twitter.

More than an hour after the eruption began, a commercial passenger jet can be seen flying over the site of the eruption at low altitude towards Reykjavik’s main airport, Keflavik.

– Tourist magnet –

Last year’s eruption saw more than 140 million cubic meters of magma spill into the area over a six-month period before it was officially declared over after nine months in December 2021.

Relatively easy to access, the site has become a major tourist attraction, attracting over 350,000 visitors, according to the Iceland Tourism Board.

On Wednesday, rescuers and police rushed to the site of the latest eruption to assess the danger and possible gas contamination, and discouraged people from visiting it.

Iceland’s President Gudni Johannesson, who was driving near the site of Wednesday’s eruption when it occurred, echoed that plea.

“I just want people to be careful and know more before they go into the unknown. If this eruption is anything like the last one, there will be enough time, so there is no need to rush,” he told the English newspaper. language media Iceland Monitor.

– Awakening –

Mount Fagradalsfjall belongs to the Krysuvik volcanic system on the Reykjanes Peninsula in southwest Iceland.

Iceland has 32 volcanic systems currently considered active, the highest number in Europe. The country has had an eruption every five years on average.

Wednesday’s eruption was the country’s seventh in 21 years.

However, until last year, the Reykjanes Peninsula had not experienced an eruption since the 13th century, when a volcano erupted for 30 years, from 1210 to 1240.

After last year’s eruption, geophysicists said it could signal the beginning of a new period of eruptions that last for centuries.

A vast island near the Arctic Circle, Iceland straddles the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a crack in the ocean floor that separates the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates.

The shifting of these plates is partly responsible for Iceland’s intense volcanic activity.

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