According to experts, an Icelandic fishing town is in danger of being completely wiped off the map by a volcano expected to erupt within hours or days. Meanwhile, the region continues to be hit by hundreds of earthquakes.
Between midnight and 6 a.m. on Sunday, authorities registered 880 tremors, according to local broadcaster RUV. The tremors remained below a magnitude of 3.0, which made it quieter than the previous nights.
The series of earthquakes started more than two weeks ago. Thousands of tremors have been recorded since then. There are fears of a volcanic eruption on the Reykjanes Peninsula.
Grindavik, a fishing town of about 4,000 residents about 40 kilometres southwest of the capital Reykjavik, was evacuated on Saturday after the earthquakes, which are believed to be the result of magma shifting beneath the Earth’s crust.
Local authorities also declared a state of emergency on Friday in Reykjanes, the peninsula on which Grindavik is located. “We are concerned about all the houses and infrastructure in the area,” Vidir Reynisson, head of Iceland’s civil protection, said on Saturday.
Grindavik is close to the famous Blue Lagoon geothermal spa (closed as a precaution) and to the Svartseni geothermal power plant, the main electricity and water supplier for the peninsula’s 30,000 inhabitants. “The magma is now at a very shallow depth, so we expect an eruption within a few hours at the earliest, but at least within a few days,” Reynisson said.
Gorge of 15 kilometers
The most likely scenario is an eruption in a vent near Grindavik. “A fifteen-kilometre-long rift has already formed; there is a good chance that the eruption will happen somewhere.”
However, the possibility of an eruption on the ocean floor, which would probably lead to a giant ash cloud, cannot yet be ruled out.
Iceland has 33 active volcanic systems, the highest number in Europe. In 2010, the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano paralyzed air traffic in Europe.