Iceland has declared a state of emergency, triggering the evacuation of Grindavik due to a series of intense earthquakes in the southwest, raising concerns about a potential volcanic eruption.
The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management issued the state of emergency, emphasizing the need for civil defense.
The Icelandic Meteorological Office recorded nearly 800 quakes within 14 hours, with the shallowest at a depth of 3-3.5 kilometers. The Civil Protection Agency expressed concerns about a magma tunnel forming near Grindavik, prompting imminent volcanic eruption warnings.
The village of Grindavik, housing approximately 4,000 people, is 3 kilometers southwest of the earthquake’s epicenter. Evacuation plans are in place, with authorities unable to determine the potential surface location of magma as of Friday evening.
The IMO noted magma accumulation underground, estimating several days for it to reach the surface. Although a fissure might direct lava southeast and west, not towards Grindavik, evacuation is strongly urged.
The CPA reminded residents to evacuate calmly, emphasizing that it’s not an emergency evacuation.
The U.S. Embassy in Iceland issued a volcano alert, cautioning against potential hazards such as lava, toxic gases, and heavy smoke. Commercial face masks provide no protection against volcanic gases. The Reykjanes peninsula, experiencing around 24,000 tremors since late October, has seen about 800 quakes in the last few hours alone.
Situated on a tectonic plate boundary along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Iceland hosts 33 active volcanoes, the most in Europe.
The Reykjanes peninsula witnessed three eruptions in March 2021, August 2022, and July 2023, fortunately away from populated areas.
The 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption led to widespread flight cancellations, highlighting the potential impact of Icelandic volcanic events on a global scale.