Iceland Volcano Erupts in Plumes of Fire With Little Notice

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A volcano erupted with little notice in southern Iceland on Saturday night, the latest in a string of eruptions in the area, threatening local infrastructure and leading the authorities to declare a state of emergency.

Lava fountains burst out of the ground, and a nearly two-mile-long fissure opened up on the Reykjanes Peninsula around 8:30 p.m., the Icelandic Meteorological Office said. The eruption occurred near the town of Grindavik, the Svartsengi Power Plant and the Blue Lagoon, one of Iceland’s most famous tourist attractions.

The meteorological office said that it had received indications of a possible eruption only about 40 minutes before it happened. The office sent out its first warning moments before the eruption began.

The Blue Lagoon and Grindavik were evacuated shortly after the eruption, according to RUV, the national broadcaster. Grindavik has a population of about 4,000, but few residents were in the town at the time. About 700 visitors were staying at the Blue Lagoon.

On Sunday morning, Hjordis Gudmundsdottir, a spokeswoman for the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, told reporters that the biggest risk was to two pipes that carried hot water from the geothermal Svartsengi Power Plant to homes on the peninsula.

Shortly after midnight, lava flowed over a road toward a water distribution pipe from the power plant, according to an update from the Icelandic Meteorological Office at 1 p.m. local time.

The lava has not moved much since Sunday morning, and it was about 200 meters from the pipe. Response workers were monitoring the speed of the lava, which has been “slow and steady since this morning,” the office said.

The eruption was most likely the biggest of the seven that have occurred across the Reykjanes Peninsula since 2021, including four since December, the civil protection agency said in a statement. Before that, the peninsula had laid dormant for 800 years.

Meteorologists have expressed concerns that if the lava continues at the same rate, it could flow into the North Atlantic. Contact between lava and water can create small explosions and dangerous gases.

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