Huge danger that volcanic fissures could tear apart Icelandic town

Huge danger that volcanic fissures could tear apart Icelandic town without warning, local experts fear as tourists rush to cancel trips to the country and stunning new images of lava flows emerge

  • Experts have warned the future is ‘uncertain’ and that disruption to tourism could continue into next year

Iceland’s ongoing volcanic eruption could see new fissures open up and rip apart the nearby town of Grindavik, experts have warned, as the area remains on high alert amid uncertainty around what the coming days will bring.

The eruption on the Reykjanes began on Monday night signals a heightened risk of volcanic fissures opening without warning inside the fishing town, which is home to some 4,000 people and was emptied of its population weeks as it began to be shaken by earthquakes. 

Locals have already shared videos of their homes being ripped apart, with one telling MailOnline her house was sealed and that she cannot return after the force of the tremors ripped it from its foundations.

Iceland’s tourism industry, driven by attractions including the Blue Lagoon which is just a stone’s throw from the eruption, has also taken a huge hit – with some flights delayed and nervous holidaymakers cancelling reservations and pushing back their trips for the coming months.

‘The future is still uncertain,’ Icelandic tourist board boss Jóhannes Þór Skúlason told ‘We have to see how this eruption plays out. If the upheavals continue for a long time, the impact on the tourism industry can be great into next year.’ 

Meanwhile, people around the world have marvelled at the stunning new images coming out of the country, with drone footage showing the steaming lava flows pouring out over snow-capped mountains and laying bare the extent of the 2.5 mile (4km) chasm.

Bubbling lava pours out of chasms near the town of Grindavik, Iceland on December 19

Molten lava is comming out from a fissure on the Reykjanes peninsula 3km north of the evacuate town of Grindavik, western Iceland on December 19

A close up of the Southern active segment of the original fissure of an active volcano in Grindavik on Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula

Tens of thousands of tremors have been recorded around Grindavik since a ‘seismic swarm’ first rattled the region in late October, with the Fagradalsfjall volcano threatening for weeks to erupt before Monday’s explosion at Sundhnúkagíga, which has unleashed a much larger flow than any seen in recent years. 

With a huge magma tunnel stretching beneath Grindavik fissures could still open without warning, geophysicist Benedikt Ófeigsson told Icelandic news outlet DV.

‘A magma tunnel was also formed [underground] from which the eruption emerged, and it extends considerably further south and north than the fissures themselves, and we can fully expect that they will start erupting without warning, as actually happened in Fagradalsfjall,’ Ófeigsson warned.

Experts are due to meet to assess the ongoing situation on Wednesday morning after an update last night that the eruption has been weakening.

The volcano has been spewing enough lava to fill an Olympic swimming pool every 20 seconds, an expert said on Tuesday.

David Pyle, a professor of Earth sciences at Oxford University told Live Science that earthquakes around the eruption area have now died down, suggesting the fissure has stabilised.

‘The eruption rate is likely to be in the region of a few hundred cubic metres of lava per second — enough to fill an Olympic swimming pool in about 20 seconds,’ Pyle told LiveScience. 

‘The length of the fissure may be an indication of how much magma had been able to accumulate in the crust over the past few weeks.’

The Icelandic Met Office said in a statement last night: ‘The lava flow is estimated to be about one-quarter of what it was at the beginning of the eruption on 18 December, and a third of the original fissure is active.’

Police have said that the eruption does not pose a danger to life and that no injuries have been reported so far, despite thrill-seekers flocking to the area.

While locals and tourists alike have to witness the incredible nighttime scenes firsthand, authorities have warned that the darkness makes the site even more dangerous.

A drone is capturing the lava flow from the erupting volcano on the Reykjanes Peninsula

Scientist of the University of Iceland take measurements and samples standing on the ridge in front of the active part of the eruptive fissure of an active volcano in Grindavik

The eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula just north of the evacuated town of Grindavik began last night at around 10.17 pm after an earthquake swarm, the Icelandic Meteorological Office said, referring to a series of small shakes

Lava comes to the surface at the site which is a short distance from the town of Grindavik

Billowing smoke and flowing lava turning the sky orange are seen in this Icelandic Coast Guard handout image during an volcanic eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula on Monday 

The biggest risk posed to people living near the volcano is volcanic fumes, authorities said, which could cause trouble breathing or choking.

Fears that poisonous gas from the eruption would impact the Reykjanes peninsula overnight fortunately did not come to pass. 

Pollution levels have gone up in parts of the peninsula however, raising concerns among experts.

People are being asked to stay away from the area as smoke and ash continues to emanate from the eruption.

The Icelandic Met Office estimates that hundreds of cubic meters of lava per second escaped the volcano in the first two hours of the eruption began on Monday, though this has reduced significantly since.

The lava is about 1,200 degrees Celsius (2,200 degrees Fahrenheit). 

The volcano last erupted in March 2021, but before that had been dormant for 6,000 years.

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