The Iceland town of Grindavik, home to about 4,000 people, has been evacuated due to the threat of a volcanic eruption. The town is located near the capital, Reykjavik, and is known for its proximity to the Blue Lagoon hot spring.
A large crack has appeared in the center of the town, with steam pouring out. This is believed to be a precursor to a volcanic eruption. The magma, which was initially accumulating under the Earth’s surface at a depth of about five kilometers, has begun rising vertically.
The Icelandic Meteorological Office has stated that there is a “considerable” risk of an eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula due to the size of the underground magma intrusion and the rate at which it is moving. The most likely scenario would be a fissure opening in the ground near Grindavik.
The magma intrusion has already caused damage to roads and buildings in Grindavik and its surroundings3 due to the quakes and ground lift it caused. A large crack on the Grindavik golf course, an image widely shared on social media networks3, also resulted from it.
Iceland, hosting 33 active volcanic systems, declares a state of emergency and orders the mandatory evacuation of Grindavik3. Several nearby towns have opened emergency shelters and help centers, while most Grindavik residents choose to stay with their friends or relatives.
Where is Grindavik and what is happening there?
About 3,500 people inhabit Grindavik, a small fishing town in Iceland’s southwest Reykjanes peninsula. The town is situated around 5 miles south of the Blue Lagoon, a geothermic bathing spa that has popularity amongst both locals and tourists. Large cracks started appearing in roads after thousands of earthquakes took place across the peninsula, prompting an evacuation of the town over the weekend.
Researchers have discovered a 9-mile long river of magma running through the peninsula, sparking fears that the Gradalsfjal volcano – about 12 miles to the north of Grindavik – could erupt due to the tremors.
Grindavik residents described being evacuated from their homes by police in the early hours of Saturday as the ground shook, roads cracked and buildings suffered structural damage.
These earthquakes have been linked to the movement and spreading of magma, which is around 5km (3 miles) underground, by scientists. The Icelandic Meteorological Office reports that the land in the region has risen by 9cm since October 27.
Authorities fear that molten rock can rise to the surface and hit Grindavik. Experts expect an eruption soon since the magma is at a shallow depth.
“On Monday, the Icelandic Meteorological Office announced that despite the decrease in the size and intensity of earthquakes, there is a ‘significant likelihood’ of an eruption on or just off Reykjanes in the coming days.”
Persistent shaking ‘abnormal
Vera, a resident of Grindavik, described the constant tremors that made sleep impossible. Now residing in a suburb of Reykjavik at his sister-in-law’s place, he expressed his concern, stating, “This is not normal anymore.”
The shock of the situation has not only impacted the residents of Grindavik but has also resonated with the entire nation of Iceland. Despite the common occurrence of earthquakes in the region, the current situation has left the populace in a state of disbelief.
The majority of Grindavik’s 3,800 residents have found shelter with friends or family, leaving only a handful of 50 to 70 individuals at the evacuation center. On Sunday, some evacuees were permitted to return to town briefly to gather essential items, under strict supervision and without the allowance of personal vehicles.
Vera likened the scene to a war zone, with rescue vehicles and police cars lining the streets, their lights flashing in the eerie quiet. “It’s just unreal… It’s really strange,” he said.
The Reykjanes Peninsula, located southwest of the capital, is known for its seismic activity. In March 2021, the Fagradalsfjall volcanic system in the region witnessed a spectacular eruption of lava fountains from a ground fissure. This volcanic activity persisted for six months, attracting numerous locals and tourists. Subsequent eruptions occurred in August 2022 and July of the current year, each lasting for three weeks.
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