© AP
Iceland is known as the land of fire and ice and on the slopes of the Eyjafjallajokull glacier this has never been more true as these pictures show its volcano spewing molten ash into the sky at around 100 metres a second.

This is the dramatic crucible of lava and lightning which has grounded flights across the Atlantic and northern Europe, bring chaos to hundreds of thousands of passengers.

Ripping a half-mile fissure in a field of ice just over four weeks ago, the volcano ejected lava bombs and created forks of lightning, thought to be caused by charge-inducing collisions in volcanic dust. And, as these pictures taken late on Sunday show, it is still wreaking havoc.

As people in Britain and the rest of Europe are caught up with the unprecedented travel chaos caused by the eruption, those in Iceland are living with blankets of ash falling from the sky and fears of volcanic floods.

Almost completely blocking out an otherwise blue sky, the cloud released from the volcano resembles a tornado as it sweeps across the landscape.

On remote farms, animals, houses and nearby mountain ranges have been coated in grey as the wall of fog moves across the sky, creating the impression it is the middle of the night.

As the fog moved in, farmers got their animals to safety amid fears they would be poisoned by eating or drinking volcanic ash.

Since Eyjafjallajokill erupted hundreds of farmers were evacuated but many have returned to tend to their animals despite fears of volcanic floods.
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Dairy farmer Hanna Lara Andrews, whose farm sits below the Eyjafjallajokull glacier, said so far livestock seemed to have survived without any problems.

'The biggest problem is that the roads have been destroyed so the milk can't be collected. We can only stock a certain amount on the farm; if the roads aren't repaired soon, we will have to throw it away.

'The ash is still falling thickly; it's difficult to see through it. But it could change direction for the north, which would move it away from the farms.'

'Our biggest fear is the floods. They could come at any moment. Our land hasn't been damaged yet, but some of our neighbours' has.

Iceland sits on a volcanic hotspot in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and has relatively frequent eruptions, although most occur in sparsely populated areas and pose little danger to people or property. The last eruption took place in 2004.

The last time Eyjafjallokull erupted, in December 1821, it did so for 13 months. Most eruptions of this type are self-limiting; eventually, the volcano literally runs out of steam.

But eruptions lasting months or even years are not unknown. If it keeps erupting - and the winds keep blowing our way - planes could be grounded for the foreseeable future.

Although Eyjafjallokull is not particularly large, and this is not a particularly violent eruption, its volcanic fissures lie under a thick slab of glacial ice, and it is the explosive interaction between the 1,500c lava, the pressurised gases it contains, and the ice which has resulted in such a massive column of ash and smoke, stretching 30,000ft into the sky.
© Nordic Photos/Getty Images
The real danger is that the eruption, and the associated earthquakes (about one every 40 seconds), will set off the larger, neighbouring volcano of Katla, which also lies under ice.

The last major eruption of Katla, in 1918, was ten times larger than this eruption of Eyjafjallokull. Vulcanologists believe the dust cloud from such an event would stretch 14 miles into the sky and persist for months.

BA had intended to resume flights from London airports today but last night it had to cancel those plans.

A spokesman for the air traffic control service Nats said: 'The volcano eruption in Iceland has strengthened and a new ash cloud is spreading south and east towards the UK.

'This demonstrates the dynamic and rapidly changing conditions in which we are working.'

As these pictures show, the forces of this volcano show little sign of abating.
© Skarphedinn Thrainsson/Flickr
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© ReutersA pilot shows common sense and climbs to avoid the volcanic plume
© AFP/Getty ImagesCar engines clearly had no difficulty driving through clouds of ash
© ReutersWho can blame these drivers for wanting to turn back?!
© ReutersSo terrible and so beautiful
© European Space AgencyCouldn't some flights at least have been diverted to the north of the island where there is clearly no ash cloud?