Breaking News: Iceland Declares State of Emergency Amid Escalating Earthquakes and Volcano Eruption Concerns

Iceland holds the title for the highest number of active volcanic systems in Europe, clocking in at 33. This number is particularly pertinent as a series of earthquakes has struck the Reykjanes peninsula in the southwest region of the country, prompting authorities to declare a state of emergency. Concerns of a potential volcanic eruption have been raised.

“The head of the national police force (…) has declared a state of emergency for civil defence due to intense seismic activity in Sundhnjukagigar, north of Grindavik,” announced the civil defence authority in a statement late Friday.

The possibility of the earthquakes escalating and triggering an eruption has not been ruled out. In fact, according to the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO), an eruption could happen “within a few days”.

The town of Grindavik, which houses around 4,000 residents, is now under evacuation plans, following the occurrence of the seismic swarm. For safety measures, the Thor patrol boat has been dispatched to Grindavik, as announced by the civil protection authority. The Blue Lagoon, a popular tourist spot known for its geothermal spas, has also been shut down as a precaution.

The seismic activity peaked with two earthquakes on Friday evening, the most powerful registering a magnitude of 5.2. These earthquakes were felt as far as the capital Reykjavik, approximately forty kilometers away, and along a large part of the southern coast.

In total, over 24,000 tremors have been recorded on the peninsula since the end of October, with nearly 800 earthquakes occurring between midnight and 14:00 GMT on Friday alone. The IMO has observed an accumulation of magma at a depth of five kilometers, raising the possibility of a volcanic eruption once brought to the surface.

The Reykjanes peninsula has experienced three eruptions since 2021, none of which posed a threat to infrastructure or populated areas. However, the infamous eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 resulted in the disruption of European skies, with 100,000 flights cancelled and ten million passengers stranded. This serves as a reminder of the potential impact of volcanic eruptions in Iceland.


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