Iceland declared a state of emergency over the risk of volcanic eruption, about 800 earthquakes on Nov 10
REYKJAVIK, Nov 11 (NNN-AGENCIES) — Icelandic authorities on Friday declared a state of emergency over the risk of volcanic eruptions after a series of strong earthquakes shook the Reykjanes peninsula, southwest of the country.
In the context of experts assessing that this could be a harbinger of a volcanic eruption, Iceland’s Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management said: “The national police chief has declared a state of emergency.” issued for civil defense due to a severe earthquake in Sundhnjukagigar, north of the town of Grindavik.
Subsequent earthquakes could be stronger than those that just occurred, and this chain of events could lead to an eruption.” The Icelandic Meteorological Agency (IMO) forecast that a volcanic eruption could take place “in the next few days” in the country.
Grindavik town – which has about 4,000 residents – is located about 3 km southwest of the area where the earthquake occurred on Nov 10. Grindavik authorities are planning on-site evacuation for people in case of a volcanic eruption.
According to IMO, on Nov 10, two strong earthquakes shook Grindavik, of which the strongest earthquake with a magnitude of 5.2 occurred in the north of this town. The impact of the quakes was felt in the capital Reykjavik, about 40 kilometers away, and along Iceland’s southern coast, shaking windows and furniture.
Police were forced to block a north-south route to Grindavik because the area was seriously damaged after the earthquake.
IMO data shows that about 24,000 earthquakes have occurred on the Reykjanes peninsula since the end of last month, including about 800 earthquakes recorded on Nov 10. The IMO also noted the accumulation of magma underground at a depth of about 5 km. If this magma moves towards the surface, this could lead to a volcanic eruption.
The IMO states: “It will take several days for magma to rise to the surface. If a crack appears where seismic activity is at its highest today, lava will flow southeast and west, but does not flow towards Grindavik”.
Iceland’s Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management said it had dispatched the Thor patrol ship to Grindavik “for security purposes”. Emergency shelters and help centers will open in Grindavik next week, as well as three other locations in southern Iceland, with the aim of providing information and support for people on the move.
On Nov 9, Blue Lagoon – a tourist destination near Grindavik, famous for its geothermal spas and luxury hotels, also announced a temporary closure to prevent risks.
Meanwhile, the Svartsengi geothermal plant – the main electricity and water supplier for 30,000 residents on the Reykjanes peninsula – has also drawn up contingency plans to protect the plant and its workers in the event of a volcanic eruption.
With its geographical location located between the tectonic plates of the Eurasian and North American continents moving in opposite directions, Iceland is a hot spot for seismic and volcanic activity in the world. The country currently has 33 active volcanic systems – the most among European countries.
Since 2021, the Reykjanes peninsula has witnessed three volcanic eruptions, in March 2021, August 2022 and July 2023 respectively. All three of these volcanic eruptions were located far from infrastructure or populated areas. Before that, the Reykjanes volcanic system had been “sleeping” for 80 years.
Volcanologists predict that this active cycle of the Reykjanes volcanic system could last for several decades or centuries.