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Iceland: Volcano erupts for fourth time in 3 months

March 17, 2024

Iceland, located between the Eurasian and the North American tectonic plates, sits above a volcanic hot spot in the North Atlantic.

An eruption takes place near Grindavik, Iceland.
Iceland has about 30 active volcanoesImage: Public Security Department of Icelandic Police/REUTERS

A volcano in Iceland erupted Saturday evening for the fourth time in three months, spewing bright orange streams of lava into the night sky.

According to Iceland's Meteorological Office, the eruption created a fissure stretching approximately 3 kilometers (almost 2 miles) long between Stora-Skogfell and Hagafell mountains on the Reykjanes Peninsula.

Residents evacuated

Authorities had been monitoring the situation closely for weeks, as signs of accumulating magma —semi-molten rock — beneath the surface pointed to an impending eruption.

Hundreds of people were evacuated from the Blue Lagoon thermal spa, one of Iceland's top tourist attractions, when the eruption began, national broadcaster RUV said.

There were no reports of flight disruptions at nearby Keflavik, Iceland's main airport.

The eruption site is a few kilometers northeast of Grindavik, a coastal town of 3,800 people about 50 kilometers (30 miles) southwest of Iceland's capital, Reykjavik, that was evacuated before the initial eruption in December.

A few residents who had returned to their homes were evacuated again Saturday.

Erupting volcano closes Iceland's famous Blue Lagoon

Grindavik was evacuated in November when the Svartsengi volcanic system awakened after almost 800 years with a series of earthquakes that opened large cracks in the ground north of the town. 

The volcano eventually erupted on December 18, sending lava flowing away from Grindavik. A second eruption that began on January 14 sent lava toward the town.

Both eruptions lasted only a matter of days. A third eruption began February 8, but petered out within hours. 

Sitting above a volcanic hotspot

Iceland, located between the Eurasian and the North American tectonic plates, sits above a volcanic hot spot in the North Atlantic. 

It sees regular eruptions and is highly experienced at dealing with them.

The country has around 30 active volcanoes, making it a popular destination for volcano tourism.

The most disruptive in recent times was the 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, which spewed huge clouds of ash into the atmosphere and led to widespread airspace closures over Europe.

tg/sri (dpa, AP, AFP, Reuters)