Iceland Declares Emergency Over Volcanic Eruption Threat

Authorities have declared a state of emergency in Iceland and ordered residents to evacuate their homes and leave the coastal town of Grindavik after nearly 800 earthquakes rocked the country's southwestern Reykjanes peninsula in 14 hours....

Iceland Declares Emergency Over Volcanic Eruption Threat
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Facts

  • Authorities have declared a state of emergency in Iceland and ordered residents to evacuate their homes and leave the coastal town of Grindavik after nearly 800 earthquakes rocked the country's southwestern Reykjanes peninsula in 14 hours.1
  • On Friday, the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management said an emergency was declared 'due to intense earthquake (activity) at Sundhnjukagigar, north of Grindavik,' which could lead to a volcanic eruption.2
  • As at least 24K tremors have been recorded on the peninsula since the end of last month, the Icelandic Meteorological Office has warned that magma accumulation beneath Mount Fagradalsfjall could be brought to the surface and trigger an eruption within a few days.3
  • Although all roads into Grindavik are closed except for emergencies, Iceland's Civil Protection Agency emphasized 'the evacuation is primarily preventive' as the town of 4K 'have a good amount of time to react.'4
  • Meanwhile, the Blue Lagoon thermal pool, a popular tourist site, is closed as a precaution. At the same time, Svartsengi geothermal plant, which supplies electricity and water to about 30K residents, has implemented precautions.5
  • Iceland, with 33 active volcanic systems, frequently experiences high seismic activity. The 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallaj√∂kull led to widespread airspace closures over Europe and the cancellation of 100K flights.6

Sources: 1CNN, 2The Guardian, 3DW, 4BBC News, 5Firstpost and 6Euronews.

Narratives

  • Narrative A, as provided by National Geographic. Iceland is prone to earthquakes and high volcanic activity because it's located on a tectonic boundary between the North American and Eurasian plates on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Not much can be done to protect the country from toxic volcanic hazards and hot molten lava, which puts the lives of residents and infrastructure at risk.
  • Narrative B, as provided by FT. While there's no way to accurately predict when exactly an earthquake will occur or whether and where magma might reach the surface, Iceland can reduce casualties and infrastructure damage if it stops using its volcanic eruptions to lure tourists who livestream videos of the dangerous natural wonder to serve fresh lava to their Instagram and TikTok profiles.