Iceland ‘is on edge’ waiting for volcanic eruption amid fears river of lava could hit power plant after giant crack tears through town, thousands are evacuated and over 700 more earthquakes since yesterday, with ‘unholy sounds’ coming up from the earth
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The whole of Iceland ‘is on edge’ as experts say earthquakes which have been rumbling beneath the surface for days and have torn through a town are a precursor to a volcanic eruption.

More than 700 quakes have been recorded in the southwestern Reykjanes Peninsula since yesterday, and despite them being slightly weaker than in previous days the Fagradalsfjall volcano is still expected to erupt.

Iceland has been shaken by thousands of tremors over the past few days, with a state of emergency declared on Friday and around 4,000 people ordered to leave the town of Grindavik. 

Evacuated residents have reported hearing ‘unholy sounds’ from beneath the ground as they fled, while those allowed to return to collect belongings from their deserted homes were told: ‘If you hear sirens, drop everything and get out!’

Huge sinkholes have opened up around the town, and now dramatic aerial footage captured by the Coast Guard shows a chasm running through the centre, with smoke pouring out of the gaping splits as magma rises. 

Meanwhile, authorities are urgently preparing to build defence walls around a nearby geothermal power plant which they desperately hope will protect it from lava flows – amid concerns that a volcanic eruption could be imminent.

Smoke has been seen pouring out of fissures as volcanic activity continues under the surface

Smoke has been seen pouring out of fissures as volcanic activity continues under the surface

Roads near Grindavik have been completely torn open amid the volcanic activity, with a digger seen making repairs today

Roads near Grindavik have been completely torn open amid the volcanic activity, with a digger seen making repairs today

Huge sinkholes have emerged on a road due to volcanic activity, near Grindavik

Huge sinkholes have emerged on a road due to volcanic activity, near Grindavik

The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, which has been closed to tourists due to the volcanic activity, with the Svartsengi geothermal power station in the background (file image)

The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, which has been closed to tourists due to the volcanic activity, with the Svartsengi geothermal power station in the background (file image)

Mount Fagradalsfjall volcano spews lava after an eruption in on July 16, 2023

Mount Fagradalsfjall volcano spews lava after an eruption in on July 16, 2023

Iceland’s Justice Minister Gudrun Hafsteinsdottir told state broadcaster RUV that a large dike has been designed to protect the Svartsengi geothermal power plant, located just over six kilometers from Grindavik.

Equipment and materials that could fill 20,000 trucks were being moved to the plant, she said, and construction is awaiting formal approval from the government.

The plant produces hot and cold water and electricity for the entire country and a spokesperson for its operator, HS Orka, said a disruption would not impact power supply to the capital Reykjavik.

Magma has been accumulating under the town and experts said yesterday that a ‘corridor’ around nine miles (14km) long has developed beneath it, with an eruption possible anywhere along the intrusion. 

Fears have been mounting that an eruption could see a repeat of the chaos caused by the 2010 Eyjafjallajokull eruption, however volcanologists have said that Fagradalsfjall would not produce a huge ash cloud as it did if it does blow.

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

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

The head of the Department of Public Safety has said it is getting ‘more and more difficult’ to get into the area of Grinvadik as giant chasms continue to widen.

‘That area continues to sink and new cracks are constantly forming on the surface. We define this area a bit like a sliding glacier that is heavily cracked and even covered with snow, so it is very dangerous to be inside that area.’

While people have been able to make quick trips to their homes in recent days to gather belongings and retrieve pets, anyone who has been unable to do so thus far will need extra safety precautions if returning today, he said.

Iceland's Justice Minister Gudrun Hafsteinsdottir told state broadcaster RUV that a large dike has been designed to protect the Svartsengi geothermal power plant (file image)

Iceland’s Justice Minister Gudrun Hafsteinsdottir told state broadcaster RUV that a large dike has been designed to protect the Svartsengi geothermal power plant (file image)

A car drives towards a fissure in a road in the town of Grindavik, Iceland, on Monday November 13

A car drives towards a fissure in a road in the town of Grindavik, Iceland, on Monday November 13

A resident from the town of Grindavik, Iceland, takes some of her belongings from her house after being ordered to evacuate

A resident from the town of Grindavik, Iceland, takes some of her belongings from her house after being ordered to evacuate

Residents of Grindavik were briefly allowed to return to their homes on Monday after being told to evacuate on Saturday

Residents of Grindavik were briefly allowed to return to their homes on Monday after being told to evacuate on Saturday

Authorities have warned that anyone hoping to return will need to be accompanied by emergency personnel. 

Residents have shared videos making their way back into the deserted fishing town, with officials warning them to urgently retreat if they hear warning sirens.

The Civil Protection Authority stressed in a statement that the area around Grinvadik is dangerous. 

‘The Weather Bureau continues to measure ongoing and constant ground deformation in the vertical displacement which has formed near Grindavik,’ it said.

‘Intrusions can form without any notice, as well as volcanic activity. A volcanic eruption is likely in the area.’

It added that ‘rapid land upheaval’ is being measured around Svartsengi.

Local media reports that seismic activity overnight was similar to the day before, with ‘about a hundred tremors per hour’. Most were small, but the largest measured 3.1 and 2.8 in size, according to Visir.is.

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.’

Dramatic aerial footage captured by the Coast Guard shows a chasm running through the centre of the town

Dramatic aerial footage captured by the Coast Guard shows a chasm running through the centre of the town

Huge cracks have appeared in the roads and around houses in Grindavik as magma accumulates below the surface

Huge cracks have appeared in the roads and around houses in Grindavik as magma accumulates below the surface

‘We are really concerned about all the houses and the infrastructure in the area,’ head of Iceland’s Civil Protection and Emergency Management, Reynisson said earlier this week.

‘The magma is now at a very shallow depth, so we’re expecting an eruption within a couple of hours at the shortest, but at least within a couple of days.’

Icelanders are ‘essentially just waiting’, local journalist Holmfridur Gisladottir told Sky News on Monday.

A looming eruption has revived the trauma of the 2010 explosion at another of Iceland’s volcanoes, Eyjafjallajokull, for many locals.

A sign of the village of Grindavik, which was ordered to evacuate due to volcanic activity

A sign of the village of Grindavik, which was ordered to evacuate due to volcanic activity

Roads were shut when large cracks emerged following tremors, amid increasing seismic and volcanic activity

Roads were shut when large cracks emerged following tremors, amid increasing seismic and volcanic activity

Roads have been wrecked in the south-western town and 4,000 people were evacuated after tremors

Roads have been wrecked in the south-western town and 4,000 people were evacuated after tremors

It produced a huge cloud of ash which prompted the biggest shutdown of global aviation since the Second World War, with 50,000 flights cancelled and eight million passengers affected.

Discussing the differences between a potential eruption of Fagradalsfjall and Eyjafjallajokull, Mr Roberts said an eruption could see lava spew over the town, but was less likely to cause the same ash blast. 

He told BBC R4’s Today programme on Monday: ‘First of all there isn’t an ice cap on top and it’s not a stratovolcano so wouldn’t be an explosive blast of volcanic ash into the atmosphere.

‘This would be a lava-producing volcanic eruption along a series of fissures and that would be the main hazard.’

He added that an eruption ‘that persists for weeks’ is possible, meaning roads and other infrastructure could be ‘in harm’s way’.

Cracks have been worsening amid ongoing volcanic and seismic activity around Grindavik. Picture taken on November 13

Cracks have been worsening amid ongoing volcanic and seismic activity around Grindavik. Picture taken on November 13

Large cracks appear on a road amid volcanic activity near Grindavik in Iceland on November 11

Large cracks appear on a road amid volcanic activity near Grindavik in Iceland on November 11

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.

In March 2021, lava fountains erupted spectacularly from a fissure in the ground measuring between 500-750 metres long in the region’s Fagradalsfjall volcanic system. 

Volcanic activity in the area continued for six months that year, prompting thousands of Icelanders and tourists to visit the scene. 

In August 2022, a three-week eruption happened in the same area, followed by another in July of this year. 



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