In a devastating turn of events, the tranquil Icelandic town of Grindavik is reeling from the aftermath of a volcanic eruption that began in the early hours of Sunday.
Two volcanic fissures on the Reykjanes peninsula opened, spewing lava into the heart of the fishing town, resulting in a scenario experts describe as the “worst case.”
The entire population of Grindavik is being evacuated, adding to the woes of residents who had only recently returned after a December eruption.
Defenses erected post the previous eruption have, in part, contained the lava, but breaches in some areas have allowed molten rock to reach the town, setting houses and buildings on fire.
The main road into Grindavik has been severed by the flowing lava.
Iceland’s President Gudni Johannesson, in a live broadcast, implored the nation to stand together and show compassion for those displaced.
While hoping for a calming of the situation, he acknowledged the unpredictability of the event.
The Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) reported that the aviation color code for the Reykjanes peninsula is orange, indicating an ongoing eruption with no or minor ash emission, and flights from nearby Keflavik Airport remain unaffected.
Science journalist and volcanologist Robin Andrews highlighted the extreme peril faced by Grindavik, emphasizing that the lava shows no signs of slowing down.
He warned that the aftermath could be problematic for those with respiratory issues due to the release of gases like sulphur dioxide during volcanic activity.
Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir declared the day a “black day” for Grindavik and all of Iceland, announcing a government meeting to discuss housing measures for the evacuated residents.
The country’s alert level has been raised to “emergency,” indicating the highest level of threat to people, communities, property, or the environment.
As Iceland grapples with its fifth eruption along the Reykjanes peninsula since 2021, the situation remains precarious.
The country, situated over the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, faces the constant geological activity of the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, hosting a total of 33 active volcano systems.