January 2024 Reykjanes Eruption: President Says “We Do Not Give Up”

Considerable damage has been done to the town of Grindavík, on the south coast of Reykjanes, in the wake of two fissure eruptions which began this morning.

Three houses were destroyed by encroaching lava, and the town is without electricity, hot water and cold water, and lava has reported poured over water piping to the town. A message from Grindavík Town Council to the residents called for solidarity and support.

“Our Grindavík community is strong and characterized by unity and resilience,” the statement reads in part. “We need to face the fact that all future plans and projects are uncertain. What matters most for the people of Grindavík is to secure the community in Grindavík and thereby reduce uncertainty as much as possible. People need secure housing, financial, social, and psychological support, as well as services in all areas. We must receive clear answers immediately regarding the resources available to the residents of Grindavík and businesses in Grindavík. It is an absolute priority in our minds.

“Now, more than ever, it is crucial that we look out for each other and support one another. We will tackle this challenge together, and we will get through this.”

Lava dams worked, but more fissures could open

Rescue workers laboured tirelessly to build more earthen walls in order to divert the lava flow from the original eruption, which began at approximately 8:00 this morning, from reaching the town. This effort was successful, with the lava diverted from its location just north of town to the west.

However, another fissure opened at around noon only metres from the very limits of Grindavík. As such, it was impossible to stop the flow of lava from entering the town from this fissure, and it reached the first house it burned at around 2:00 PM. Natural hazard experts consider it not unlikely that more fissures could open still.

Eruption stablising, town badly damaged

Benedikt Halldórsson, expert director of earthquakes at the Icelandic Meteorological Office, told reporters at a press conference held this evening that the eruption appears to have stabilised for the time being.

Víðir Reynisson, department head at Civic Protection, added that considerable damage has been done to Grindavík. The town lost electricity this morning, and lava flow cut off the town’s cold and hot water as well. Land swelling opened crevasses, and in all this constitutes “the most serious threat by eruptions in Iceland since January 1973,” he said, referring to the devastating eruption of Heimaey.

“Not just bent but broken”

Municipal council director of Grindavík Fannar Jónasson told reporters that he has felt a lot of support from Parliament to help the residents of Grindavík as best as possible. The damage to the town infrastructure is such that its some 3,600 residents will be in need of residential, financial and psychological support for months to come.

“These are special circumstances,” he said. “We aren’t just bent; we’re broken. So we need support from the government. We know that the nation stands with us and their warm thoughts mean a lot, but we need extensive support and we need to work hard together.”

Prime Minister and President offer support

Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdóttir said that the government will meet tomorrow to decide on how housing for Grindavík residents will be arranged in the long term. She added that everyone will work together to repair the damage as fast as possible.

She said that challenging times lay before the nation and that solidarity, calm, and compassion must lead the way.

“It is a dark day for Grindavík, and a dark day for Iceland as a whole, but the sun will rise again,” she said. “We will confront this tragedy and do everything we can. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.”

President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson addressed the nation on the matter as well. A historian himself, Guðni referred to Icelandic history in offering words of encouragement, reminding the nation of every tragedy Iceland has faced, and overcome, together.

“This is what we Icelanders do together,” he said. “We do not give up.”

Helping Grindavík

There are numerous ways in which you can provide support for the people of Grindavík, even if you do not live in Iceland. The Icelandic Red Cross has set up a page with donation options for those wishing to lend support. This includes both one-time donations and repeat subscriptions.

For more in-depth coverage on the eruption and its impact, read our Ask Iceland Review article on the subject.

January 2024 Reykjanes Eruption: Lava Reaches Grindavík

Lava from the second eruption fissure, which opened at around noon today, reached its first house in Grindavík shortly after 2:00PM, RÚV now reports.

Grindavík, located on the south coast of Reykjanes peninsula, has faced five eruptions now over the past four years, but none have reached as close to the town as the one that began this morning at around 8:00.

Grindavík residents monitoring situation closely

This initial fissure is close to 900 metres long but located further away than the new fissure, which is about 150 metres long and opened mere metres away from the edge of town. Rescue workers have been diligently building earthen walls to keep the larger, initial lava flow at bay. This has been successful, although the lava has reached Grindavíkurvegur, the road which connects the town to Reykjanesbraut, the main highway between Keflavík and the greater Reykjavík area.

As the town was evacuated last night, residents have been following the situation very closely. Many of them were only able to take small things from their homes, due the short notice given by increased seismic activity and magma flow recorded during the night.

Government will meet this afternoon

Relevant ministries are due to meet with Civic Protection at 17:00 to discuss the matter. Many residents of Grindavík have already had to find temporary lodging elsewhere, and if developments prevent them from returning to the town, either temporarily or permanently, arrangements will need to be made with the help of the government to find new homes for them.

Police and Civic Protection have been repeatedly emphasising to the general public to stay away from the eruption area. There is no one in Grindavík and the area is in a very unstable and dangerous state.

Eruption may be stabilising

Benedikt Halldórsson, expert director of earthquakes at the Icelandic Meteorological Office, added that the eruption appears to have reach a certain equilibrium with the opening of the second fissure. Due to the flatness of the area, the lava is flowing fairly slowly, and if it continues at it current rate could flow at about one hundred metres per hour.

Scientists and rescue workers are monitoring the situation closely and working around the clock.

For more in-depth coverage on the eruption and its impact, read our Ask Iceland Review article on the subject.

January 2024 Reykjanes Eruption: New Fissure, Race Against Time to Protect Grindavík

The Icelandic Met Office has now reported that a second fissure has opened just outside of Grindavík, just after 12:00 today, approximately four hours after the first eruption that began in Reykjanes this morning.

The new fissure is just outside of the town limits, and scientists at the Met Office believe that new fissures may open.

A race against time to save Grindavík

Because this morning’s eruption opened up both inside and outside of the earthen walls which were built over the past month to defend Grindavík from a lava flow, rescue workers have been racing against time to build new earthen walls. Lava had been flowing, slowly but surely, towards Grindavíkurvegur, the road which connects the town to Reykjanesbraut, the main highway between Keflavík and the greater Reykjavík area. At around 1:00 PM, the lava overtook the road.

Haraldur Haraldsson, director of the Suðurnes Rescue Squad, spoke to RÚV, who was at the scene where backhoes were speedily building earthen walls near Grindavíkurvegur.

“The lava is quickly advancing,” he said. “The heroes who are here in the area are closing the final gap to the road. I’d guess that after half an hour, forty minutes, the lava will be where we’re standing right now.”

At the time he made this statement, the lava was 40 to 50 metres away from the road.

Town evacuated the day before the eruption

Grindavík was evacuated yesterday due to increased seismic activity in the area, and magma measurements that pointed to an increased likelihood of an eruption.

The fissure which opened this morning, near Sundhnúkur, north of Grindavík, is about 840 metres long. Natural hazards expert Kristín Jónsdóttir echoed sentiments of others that this eruption is less powerful than the one that occurred in the early morning hours of December 18th.

That said, volcanologist Þorvaldur Þórðarson told reporters that less powerful lava eruptions can often last for longer than more explosive ones. As such, the lava flow may last considerably longer than the previous eruption.

People warned to stay away from eruption site

Víðir Reynisson, department head at Civic Protection, emphasised the importance of people avoiding the area.

“We have needed to repeat that which we’ve been saying, that people should not come [to the eruption],” he told reporters. “The area near the eruption is obviously very dangerous as we’ve been saying for some time now.”

For more in-depth coverage on the eruption and its impact, read our Ask Iceland Review article on the subject.

What’s going on with the January 2024 eruption in Reykjanes?

An eruption began at approximately 8:00 on the morning of January 14. The eruption site is much closer to the Reykjanes town of Grindavík than the previous eruption, which commenced on December 18th.

On this occasion, the town of Grindavík had been evacuated the day before, following a series of troubling seismic readings and magma caldera measurements which at that time indicated about a 50/50 chance of another eruption beginning. As such, all residents of the town are safe.

How dangerous is the volcano in Reykjanes?

While the eruption has just begun, volcanologists are already comparing it to last December’s eruption, i.e., a fissure eruption that may run its course in a relatively short span of time. The course of volcanoes are notoriously hard to predict, even after an eruption has begun, so these are only the best estimates of educated professionals. Volcanologist Þorvaldur Þórðarson told RÚV that this eruption “is about 1/3 to 1/6 the lava output of the previous eruption”, or about 50 to 100 cubic metres per second. He also pointed out that “slower” volcanoes tend to last longer.

Is Grindavík in any danger?

Unfortunately, this eruption has occurred much closer to Grindavík than the previous one, and while lava flow defense walls were dug out over the past month, the fissure has opened on both sides of those walls. At around noon the same day, a second fissure opened just metres from the town. Meanwhile, rescue workers have been building earthen walls between the lava flow and the town as fast as they are able. While these walls have kept lava from the initial eruption at bay for the time being, lava from the second eruption reached the first house in Grindavík at around 2:00 PM.

Lava ended up not only burning three homes. The town is without electricity or hot and cold water, and lava flow reportedly covered water piping to the town. Residents will need long term housing, financial support and counseling, which Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir has pledged to provide.

Grindavík, which is home to some 3,600 people, is situated on the south cost of the Reykjanes peninsula in southwest Iceland. The town was in the midst of repairs from the previous eruption last December when this eruption occurred. While no lava flow reached the town at that time, there was considerable destruction done to the town in the form of crevasses which opened up throughout the town, doing damage to roads and other infrastructure.

The town has had a rough go of it, as this is the fifth such eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula in just four years. It seems likely that the volcanic systems on this peninsula are entering another stage of high activity. In addition, a search that was launched last Sunday for a man who fell into a crevasse was called off due to increased safety risks of rescue workers.

Is it safe to travel to Iceland?

At the time of this writing it is still safe to fly to Iceland. The eruption does not threaten Keflavík International Airport nor Reykjanesbraut, the main highway between the airport and the greater Reykjavík area.

Some tourist and activities and centres, such as the Blue Lagoon, may be closed. One can simply visit the official sites or the social media accounts of whatever you may have had booked in the area to check. It is also advisable to check your airline as well, even though conditions at the airport are still normal.

Is it possible to visit the eruption site?

In a word, no. This eruption is not a so-called “tourist volcano”, i.e., an eruption far from any infrastructure that may be visited safely. This eruption is very close to the town of Grindavík, is still in its early stages and as such is a very dangerous area to visit. Only earth scientists, Civic Protection, the Icelandic Coast Guard, rescue workers and other relevant parties are permitted near the eruption site.

The Icelandic Red Cross has set up a page with donation options for those wishing to lend support, whether you live in Iceland or abroad. This includes both one-time donations and repeat subscriptions.

How can I stay updated on the eruption in Reykjanes?

Apart from news updates that we provide, below are some links you may find useful as you stay apprised of the situation or your visit to Iceland nears:

The Icelandic Met Office, which provides updates on earthquake and volcano activity.

The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration, which provides detailed updates on road conditions all over the country.

Safe Travel, which provides continuously updated information relevant to traveling to and within Iceland.

Isavia, which operates Keflavík International Airport.

Eruption Has Begun North of Grindavík

Eruption from last December in Reykjanes, Iceland

An eruption has begun near Sundhnúkur, north of Grindavík, at approximately 8:00 this morning, the Icelandic Met Office reports.

Eruption occurred shortly after evacuations began

The eruption occurred shortly after Grindavík was evacuated due to increased seismic activity in the area.

Speaking with RÚV, natural hazards expert at the Icelandic Met Office Benedikt Ófeigsson said, “It is difficult to say how large this eruption will be.” He added that the fissure was lengthening actively, which he says is not unusual for eruptions that have just commenced.

Previous eruption in Grindavík last month

Coast Guard helicopters have been deployed to the area at the time of this writing. It has been determined that the eruption is closer to Grindavík than the previous eruption, which occurred in the early morning hours of December 18th.

By all accounts, the evacuation of Gridavík has gone well, with all residents of the town having left the region well ahead the beginning of the eruption.

How destructive will this eruption be?

While volcanoes are notoriously difficult to make accurate predictions about, volcanologist Þorvaldur Þórðarson told reporters that this eruption has surfaced at “perhaps one of the worst places that an eruption can begin, and puts Grindavík in danger if it continues.”

According to the first assessments done by the Icelandic Coast Guard, the eruption has opened on both sides of the lava flow security walls that were dug out in the over the past month. That said, another volcanologist, Ármann Höskuldsson, added that this eruption may run its course quickly.

“Hopefully it will be quick,” he said. “This is exactly like the previous eruption, a continuous lava plume along the entirety of the fissure.”

Which direction the lava will flow, and whether Grindavík will be in its path, is still unknown at the time of this writing.

Grindavík Evacuated Ahead of Schedule Amid Geological Unrest

Evacuation of Grindavík on the Reykjanes peninsula

A series of earthquakes near Sundhnúksgígaröð on the Reykjanes peninsula has led to a potential volcanic eruption threat in Grindavík, with seismic activity and magma flow moving southward towards the town. The town has been evacuated, two days ahead of the initial schedule.

Eruption could occur within Grindavík

Yesterday, the authorities announced that the residents of the town of Grindavík on the Reykjanes peninsula would need to evacuate before Monday evening. Following a swarm of earthquakes near Sundhnúksgígaröð on the Reykjanes peninsula at approximately 3 AM, the evacuation orders were expedited.  

Speaking to RÚV after the earthquakes, Kristín Jónsdóttir, a natural hazards expert with the Icelandic Meteorological Office, stated that a volcanic eruption could occur within Grindavík. Seismic activity had moved under the town, and it was likely that magma had reached beneath it. 

“The magma is flowing from Svartsengi towards the magma dyke. What is different now, compared to the magma flow on December 18, is that this magma, its deformation, and the seismic activity, are slightly further south now. The southernmost tremors are just about a kilometre north of Grindavík. So, this magma flow is moving southward, past Grindavík.”

Kristín estimated that there was an approximately 50% chance of an eruption.

“The likelihood of a volcanic eruption increases with such magma flows. Usually, it does not lead to an eruption, but right now, there is an increased chance of one occurring. If it does, it is likely to be further south than before, and thus closer to Grindavík.”

At 4 AM, The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management activated its coordination centre. Shortly thereafter, the department decided to evacuate Grindavík. It is estimated that residents were staying in about 90 homes in Grindavík; the vast majority of residents have not been staying in Grindavík since the town was initially evacuated on November 10. 

As of the time of writing, all residents are believed to have left Grindavík, according to Úlfar Lúðvíksson, the Chief of Police in Suðurnes, and power has gone in parts of Grindavík. An emergency relief centre has also been opened at Efstaleiti 9 in Reykjavik. According to RÚV, many Grindavík residents have already sought shelter there, and more have called in.

The Blue Lagoon Hotel has also been evacuated. It had reopened just a week ago on Saturday.

This article will be updated.