Iceland has declared a state of emergency after a series of earthquakes raised fears of a volcanic eruption. Authorities have ordered thousands living in the southwestern town of Grindavík to evacuate as a precaution.
The Icelandic Met Office says it is concerned large amounts of magma is spreading underground and could surface there. Thousands of tremors have been recorded around the nearby Fagradalsfjall volcano in recent weeks. The site was dormant for 800 years before eruptions in 2021, 2022 and 2023.
She added that the government was ready to provide assistance and support to the affected residents and businesses. She also urged people to stay calm and follow the instructions of the authorities.
Iceland’s Civil Protection Agency said the decision to evacuate came after the IMO could not rule out a “magma tunnel that is currently forming could reach Grindavík”.
And on Friday, the agency said people must leave the town, but also emphasised it was not an “emergency evacuation” – calling on them to “remain calm, because we have a good amount of time to react”.
“There is no immediate danger imminent, the evacuation is primarily preventive with the safety of all Grindavík residents as the principal aim,” it added.
The U.S. Embassy in Reykjavik also issued a statement, saying it was working closely with the Icelandic authorities and providing all the support it could.
Some residents of Grindavík expressed fear and sadness over leaving their homes, but also hope for the best.
“I have lived here all my life and I have never seen anything like this. It is scary and sad to leave our home, but we have to trust the experts and hope for the best,” said a Grindavík resident.
Iceland is one of the most volcanically active countries in the world, with about 30 active volcanoes. The country sits on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are moving apart, creating fissures and faults in the crust.
The last major eruption in Iceland was in 2010, when the Eyjafjallajökull volcano spewed ash into the air, disrupting air travel across Europe for several days.
- Iceland volcano: Emergency declared over volcano Fagradalsfjall eruption concerns, BBC News, 11/11/2023
- Icelandic town evacuated over risk of possible volcanic eruption, CBS News, 11/12/2023
- Iceland earthquakes – live: Volcano eruption could happen ‘within hours’ as thousands evacuate Grindavik, Yahoo News, 11/12/2023
- Iceland declares state of emergency, evacuates residents over threat of volcanic eruption, ABC7 Chicago, 11/12/2023