crack road earthquake iceland volcano
© XEarth tremors have cracked a road in the center of Grindavik, Iceland, November 11, 2023
Seismic activity in area around Grindavik has 'increased significantly' in Iceland as eruption is predicted

Authorities in Iceland have declared a state of emergency as the threat of an "imminent" volcanic eruption which "could obliterate the entire town of Grindavik" loomed.

The Icelandic Met Office experts have said a volcanic eruption could last 'for weeks' as 30,000 earthquakes have been recorded since seismic activity began three weeks ago.

Matthew James Roberts, managing director of the service and research division at the Iceland Met Office, told Radio 4's Today Programme: "This would be a lava-producing volcanic eruption along a series of fissures and that would be the main hazard.

"Blowing lava an eruption that persists for weeks possible and that means roads and other forms of infrastructure could be eventually in harm's way."

Risk of volcanic eruption in Iceland remains high

Seismic activity in southwestern Iceland decreased in size and intensity on Monday, but the risk of a volcanic eruption remained significant, authorities said, after earthquakes and evidence of magma spreading underground in recent weeks.

Almost 4,000 people were evacuated over the weekend as authorities feared that molten rock would rise to the surface of the earth and potentially hit a coastal town and a geothermal power station.

Residents of Grindavik, a town in southwestern Iceland, have been briefly allowed to return to their homes on Monday after being told to evacuate.

They were ordered to leave on Saturday after increasing concern about a potential volcanic eruption caused civil defense authorities to declare a state of emergency in the region.

Now, pictures show large queues of vehicles trying to head back to the town to retrieve valuables.
resident evacuate iceland
© Associated PressResidents of Grindavik, Iceland evacuate ahead of a potential eruption of a nearby volcano, November 12, 2023

Located between the Eurasian and the North American tectonic plates, among the largest on the planet, Iceland is a seismic and volcanic hot spot as the two plates move in opposite directions.

The Icelandic Meteorological Office said on Monday there was a "significant likelihood" of an eruption in coming days on or just off the Reykjanes peninsula near the capital Reykjavik, despite the size and intensity of earthquakes decreasing.

"We believe that this intrusion is literally hovering, sitting in equilibrium now just below the earth's surface," said Matthew James Roberts, director of the service and research division at the meteorological office.

"We have this tremendous uncertainty now. Will there be an eruption and if so, what sort of damage will occur?" he said.

Cracks were on roads near Grindavik in Iceland as the country prepared for a volcanic eruption following a series of earthquakes and evidence of magma spreading underground. On Saturday, 11 November, the Icelandic Meteorological Office that there was a "considerable" risk of an eruption on or close to the Reykjanes peninsula due to the size of the underground magma intrusion and the rate at which it was moving. In the past few days, the country has been shaken by more than 2,000 small earthquakes and thousands of people have been told to evacuate Grindavik. The eruption is expected to begin on the seabed just southwest of the town.

Iceland 'constantly shaking', says resident

Inhabitants of the town of Grindavik described being whisked from their homes in the early hours of Saturday as the ground shook, roads cracked and buildings suffered structural damage

.Hans Vera, a Belgian-born 56-year-old who has lived in Iceland since 1999, said there had been a constant shaking of his family's house.

"You would never be steady, it was always shaking, so there was no way to get sleep," said Vera, who is now staying at his sister-in-law's home in a Reykjavik suburb.

"It's not only the people in Grindavik who are shocked about this situation it's the whole of Iceland," he said.

What are the similarities to the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption

If you planned air travel across western Europe between March and June 2010, you will not have forgotten the impact of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in Iceland which resulted in huge disruption to flights.

And so with people understandably concerned over what will happen with the latest eruption on the island 1,128 miles from the UK, we ask what are the similarities between the two eruptions, all be it one hasn't happened yet.

Mike Burton, professor of volcanology at Manchester unversity, said: "At the start of the 2010 eruption there was an eruption of recently intruded magma before the major eruption which caused all the airline disruption.

"That larger eruption was fed by an older magma reservoir which was reactivated by the intrusion of fresh magma.

"In the areas where the intrusion is happening now in the Reykjanes peninsula its unlikely that there is a major older reservoir, so while the initial process of fresh magma intrusion is the same now as in 2010, the outcome is likely to be much more like the eruption of 2014/15 Holuhraun."

The eruption in Holuhraun lasted for almost six months, but thanks to its remote location in the central highland, neither the lava flow or a large amount of sulfuric gases surfaced.