Icelandic authorities were preparing for a possible small eruption about 30 kilometers from Reykjavik on Wednesday March 3, 2021 (Illustration) -
Since Wednesday, Iceland has expected a small volcanic eruption in an area where lava has not flowed for eight centuries.
Shakes typical of a rise of lava occurred in the afternoon in the area of Mount Keilir, in the small peninsula of Reykjanes, located about thirty kilometers from Reykjavik.
The peninsula was already hit by a major 5.7 magnitude earthquake last week, the Icelandic Meteorological Institute said.
“The possibility of an eruption is real, but you have to see how the activity evolves,” Freysteinn Sigmundsson, a geophysical researcher at the University of Iceland, told a press conference.
"It is not certain, the situation can last for hours or even more, with very many small earthquakes," he explained.
No inhabited area near the possible eruption
Iceland is the largest and most active volcanic region in Europe, erupting on average every five years, the last in 2014-2015 in an uninhabited area in the east of the country.
But the most famous of the modern era is that of Eyjafjallajökull, in the south of the country, in 2010. Its huge plume of smoke had caused the greatest air disruption in peacetime, paralyzing the European skies for nearly a month.
The Covid-19 has since dethroned it.
Police cut roads around Mount Keilir.
While Keflavik International Airport and the small fishing port of Grindavik are only a few kilometers away, the area in the immediate vicinity of the possible eruption is uninhabited and no evacuation was announced on Wednesday.
No large explosive eruption
“If there is a rash, we would expect it to be small.
We do not expect a large explosive eruption (like that of Eyjafjallajökull, ndr) and a minimal impact on the atmosphere, air traffic and the living conditions of people, ”said Freysteinn Sigmundsson.
The area has been under surveillance in recent days due to a very unusual number of mini-tremors after the massive February 24 earthquake, which was felt as far away as Reykjavik and much of western Iceland.
16,000 tremors in eight days
More than 16,000 more or less significant tremors have agitated the seismographs in the last eight days, against usually a thousand in a year.
An intensity that surprised the inhabitants of Grindavik, a peaceful fishing port of 3,500 souls wedged between very ancient lava fields and the Atlantic Ocean.
“I have lived in Grindavík since I was born, I have already experienced this from time to time.
But this is the first time that we have had such powerful earthquakes so frequently, ”says Kristín Birgisdóttir, in charge of tourism at the town hall.
“The feeling is never pleasant… Because when Mother Nature trembles under your feet, you feel helpless,” admits this 41-year-old blonde.
“It's always a little weird to live.
We are a little scared but we know that the houses are not going to collapse, so that's fine, ”says Erla Pétursdóttir, a human resources executive and mother of three boys.
Never had such seismic activity been recorded in the region since the start of digital surveillance in 1991. It would be necessary to go back almost 90 years to find traces of a hardly similar phenomenon.
An underground surge of molten lava had already been observed at the beginning of last year.
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