Looming volcano eruption in Iceland leaves evacuated small town in limbo:


Thousands of earthquakes have struck Iceland this week as researchers found evidence that magma is rising to the ground surface, prompting fears that a volcanic explosion could occur any time on the Reykjanes Peninsula. One small town made famous for the beloved Blue Lagoon has been evacuated, and now, residents say they’re stuck in limbo as they await the fate of their homes. 

“It’s like sitting in a very boring movie, but you’re stuck there, you can’t get out of it,” Einar Dagbjartsson told Reuters. “It’s unreal. It’s hard to digest.” 

The 62-year-old pilot is one of 3,800 people who were evacuated from the fishing town of Grindavik, located less than a half-hour drive from the Keflavík International Airport. 

“There is no one living here,” Stefan Velemir, an Iceland police officer, told Reuters. “From 3,800 to zero.” 

Meteorologists in the country have been warning for days that a volcanic eruption could happen at any moment. More than 700 earthquakes overnight on Tuesday and another 800 within roughly six hours early Wednesday morning, and according to the Icelandic Met Office, hundreds more have transpired since. Between Wednesday and Friday, the office has recorded more than 800 additional earthquakes, most of which were minor. 

The office also detected sulfur dioxide earlier this week, an indicator that magma is getting closer to the surface and that a volcanic eruption will likely occur

“The likelihood of an eruption remains high,” meteorologists said in their latest update on Tuesday.

Velemir told Reuters that some homes have already been “completely damaged” as earthquakes have formed massive cracks in the city’s streets and sidewalks. Steam has been seen rising from many of those gaps. 

“We allowing people to go for five minutes into each home,” Velemir said. “One person from each home goes five minutes and grabs all the necessities.” 

Risk of volcanic eruption in Iceland remains high
A police officer stands by the crack in a road in the fishing town of Grindavik, which was evacuated due to volcanic activity, in Iceland November 15, 2023.


Dagbjartsson said he hasn’t slept well for days and is constantly checking the news to see if the eruption began. 

And he isn’t the only one. Ingibjorn Gretarsdottir told Reuters she had to wait in a five-hour queue of residents hoping to get back into town to retrieve items from her home, which resides in a designated red zone – the area considered most dangerous and closest to where its expected an eruption could occur. While the house is fine for now, she said the ground nearby has collapsed roughly 3 feet.

“[The town] looks awful. It’s very hard to go there and see everything,” she told Reuters. “The lava is under our house … We don’t know if we’re going to have a home or what … we don’t know anything.”  

Despite the earthquakes and what seems to be an imminent threat of an eruption, Dagbjartsson said he hopes he will be able to return home – but only if the harbor, a vital source for the fishing village, survives.

“Even though half of the town would go under, well, if the harbor will be OK, it’s going to build up again,” he said. “If the harbor goes, I think it’s over.” 


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