Iceland volcano eruption: Barriers strengthen as lava flows towards city | Iceland

Emergency teams worked through the night to reinforce defensive barriers around the evacuated fishing town of Grindavik, as lava from the fourth volcanic eruption on Iceland's Reykjanes Peninsula since December flowed towards them.

After weeks of warnings that semi-molten rock was accumulating underground, the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) said the eruption, which occurred at 8.23pm local time (2023 GMT) on Saturday, created a fissure about 3 kilometers long in the earth. Between two mountains.

The IMO said lava was flowing mainly in the south and southeast at a rate of about a kilometer per hour overnight and could reach the ocean. Dikes and defensive barriers have been reinforced to prevent the “much wider” lava bed from destroying the main coastal road.

By midday Sunday, scientists said the flows appeared to be slowing somewhat, but they still posed a risk to infrastructure in and around Grindavik. “Seismic activity has decreased since the eruption started,” IMO's Palme Erlendsson told RÚV Radio.

Another IMO expert, Einar Horleifsson, said barriers installed by authorities around the city appeared to be holding up and were redirecting flows away from main facilities, but a separate flow towards the geothermal plant still posed a risk.

An emergency vehicle is parked on a road near volcanic activity on Saturday. Photograph: Marco De Marco/AP

The Svartsinji power plant, which provides electricity and water to about 30,000 people on the Reykjanes Peninsula, has been evacuated and operated remotely since the first eruption in the area, and dams have been built to protect it.

The site of the eruption is located a few miles northeast of Grindavik, and about 30 miles southwest of Iceland's capital, Reykjavik. The town's 3,800 residents were evacuated before the first volcano eruption last December, and only 100 have returned since then.

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Hundreds of people were evacuated from the nearby Blue Lagoon thermal resort, one of Iceland's most popular tourist attractions, as footage showed smoke billowing and red-orange magma rising from the ground, RÚV reported.

Magnus Tommy Gumundsson, a geophysicist who flew over the site by helicopter. He told Roof He added that Saturday's eruption was the most powerful on the peninsula yet, with a longer fissure than previous eruptions, which he said were “very active” on Saturday evening.

The few residents who have returned to their homes in Grindavik since the last eruption in February, which cut off heat for more than 20,000 people as lava flows destroyed roads and pipelines, have been evacuated safely, officials said.

The city was first evacuated in November when the Svartsinje volcanic system was awakened after nearly 800 years by a series of earthquakes that created large fissures in the ground north of the city, eventually erupting on December 18.

On that occasion, the city was spared, but a second eruption beginning on 14 January sent lava towards it and many buildings were destroyed, although defensive walls reinforced after the first eruption stopped much of the flow.

The third eruption on February 8 lasted only hours, but engulfed a major hot water pipeline. None of Reykjanes' recent eruptions have affected domestic or international flights from Iceland's airports.

Iceland lies on a volcanic hotspot in the North Atlantic Ocean and is home to 33 active volcanic systems. The authorities have extensive experience in dealing with repeated explosions. The most disruptive recent event was the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano in 2010, which led to widespread airspace closures over Europe.

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