Toxic Fumes at Source of Iceland Eruption Skip to content

Toxic Fumes at Source of Iceland Eruption

The search and rescue association Landsbjörg (ICE-SAR) has issued a warning that dangerous toxic fumes are in the air in the immediate surroundings of the volcanic crater on Fimmvörduháls, which can cause permanent damages to the lungs if inhaled.

Photo by Páll Stefánsson.

The chemicals being released into the atmosphere are sulfur, fluorine, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, which is odorless and deadly, reports.

People are therefore asked not to enter the Hrunagil canyon where the lava flow is. The canyon is very narrow and so toxic fumes are likely to accumulate there. They are heavier than air and flow close to the ground.

Travelers on the Fimmvörduháls mountain pass where the crater is located are asked to avoid depressions in clear weather, remain on top of hills and hillocks and don’t face the wind if it’s blowing fumes from the eruption their way.

Plans to open the road into the valley of Thórsmörk where the lava flow is headed were aborted this morning because the flow in the river Hvanná suddenly increased. The road will therefore remain closed and police will keep watch at all times.

Here is a word of advice from ICE-SAR for people planning to hike up Fimmvörduháls:

Planning to hike to the site of the volcano eruption? Read this!

Hiking Fimmvörduháls from the south side (from Skógar) is permitted now, but we urge people to be careful and well-prepared, and stress that you are there on your own, the responsibility is all yours.

The glacier itself (Eyjafjallajökull) and Thórsmörk are still no-access zones, and the road up Fimmvörduháls is closed to cars because it’s too wet.

You can drive to Skógar, which is perfectly reachable in a normal car, and hike up from there. You should register at Skógar so that they know you’re there in case you get into trouble.

Expect to take about five hours to reach the top in good conditions—but whether you get good conditions is a total crapshoot. We do see blizzards there in July! Weather up there changes real fast, so dress and pack accordingly.

ICE-SAR has this advice:

* Follow the weather report and take it into account.

* Make a travel plan and leave it with friends/family.

* Familiarize yourself with the area.

* Good clothing is of course utterly crucial. Ideally wear several layers of breathable clothing and the outermost layer needs to be waterproof.

* Pack at least a minimal first-aid kit and energy-rich food.

* Good telecommunications equipment is important for safety, and you have to know how to use it. A VHF radio or an NMT phone can make all the difference if something goes wrong, and to be able to notify others of a changed plan.

* A GPS locator and a compass should be standard equipment. And you have to know how to use them.

* A sleeping bag, an insulating mattress and a waterproof outer bag or a small tent can make the difference between life and death if a traveler needs to lie outdoors for some reason.

* It is better to back out in time than to get yourself into real trouble.

Also, if you are carrying expensive and heavy photo gear, make sure you pack it nice and waterproof—and make sure you are ready to carry it all along with your food and other necessities for ten hours.

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