There are 33 active volcanic systems in Iceland, the highest number in Europe, and thousands of earthquakes have been recorded since the end of October.
Authorities in Iceland declared a state of emergency after a series of earthquakes shook the Reykjanes Peninsula in the southwest of the country, raising fears of a volcanic eruption in the region.
“The head of the National Police Force (…) declared a state of emergency for civil defense due to intense seismic activity in Sundhengukajijar, north of Grindavik,” the Civil Defense Authority said in a statement late on Friday.
The administration warned that “earthquakes may become more dangerous” and that “this chain of events may lead to a volcanic eruption.”
According to the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO), an eruption could occur “within a few days.”
Evacuation of the town of Grindavik
Evacuation plans have been made for the town of Grindavik, which has a population of about 4,000 and is located three kilometers southwest of the area where the seismic swarm was recorded on Friday.
The Civil Protection Authority also announced that it would send the Thor patrol boat to Grindavik “for safety purposes.”
On Thursday, it was the Blue Lagoon, a tourist site near Grindavik known for its geothermal spas Closed as a precaution.
Earthquakes on Friday evening
Early on Friday evening, two earthquakes, the strongest measuring 5.2 according to preliminary assessments by the International Maritime Organization, were felt as far away as the capital Reykjavik, about forty kilometers away, and along much of the country’s southern coast.
About 24,000 earthquakes have been recorded on the peninsula since the end of October, according to the International Maritime Organization, with a “dense swarm” of about 800 earthquakes recorded between midnight and 14:00 GMT on Friday.
The International Maritime Organization noted the accumulation of magma at a depth of five kilometers, which if it floated to the surface, would lead to a volcanic eruption.
Since 2021, there have been three eruptions on the Reykjanes Peninsula, in March 2021, August 2022, and July 2023, all far from infrastructure or populated areas.
Iceland has 33 active volcanic systems, the highest number in Europe.
During its last eruption in 2010, the Eyjafjallajökull volcano closed European airspace, causing 100,000 flights to be canceled and 10 million passengers stranded.
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