Grindavík Evacuated Ahead of Schedule Amid Geological Unrest Skip to content

Grindavík Evacuated Ahead of Schedule Amid Geological Unrest

By Ragnar Tómas

Evacuation of Grindavík on the Reykjanes peninsula
Photo: Golli (Firefighters at work during evacuation of Grindavík on November 10).

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.

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