Volcano threatens to destroy town

Henry

A town in Iceland, home to around 4,000 people near the capital Reykjavik, could be destroyed by a volcano that is expected to erupt within hours or days, experts said on Saturday.

The town of Grindavik on the south-west coast was evacuated in the early hours of Saturday morning after magma movement under the earth’s crust caused hundreds of earthquakes which are believed to be a precursor to an eruption.

“We are really worried about all the houses and infrastructure in the area,” Vidir Reynisson, head of Iceland’s civil protection and emergency management, told AFP.

The town – about 40 km south-west of Reykjavik, is located near the Svartsengi geothermal plant, the main supplier of electricity and water to 30,000 inhabitants on the Reykjanes peninsula. It is also a fresh water reservoir.

Grindavik is also close to the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, a popular tourist destination that was closed earlier this week as a precautionary measure.

“The magma is now at a very shallow depth, so we expect an eruption within a few hours or at least within the next few days,” said Reynisson.

The most likely scenario is a crack opening in the ground near Grindavik.

“We have a gorge that is about 15 km long and we can see that an eruption can happen on any part of that gorge.”

He cannot eliminate the possibility of an eruption on the ocean floor. This will probably cause a big cloud of smoke.

“This is not the most likely scenario, but we cannot rule it out as a possibility, because the gulf ends in the sea.”

The earthquakes and ground lifting due to the magma movement have already caused damage to roads and buildings in Grindaviken surrounding areas.

A large tear also destroyed the green of the Grindavik golf course, a photo that is widely shared on social media.

Iceland, with its 33 active volcanic systems, has declared a state of emergency. Emergency shelters and relief centers have been opened in several nearby towns. However, most Grindavik residents stay with friends or relatives.