Icelandic authorities have decided to ban children under 12 years of age from visiting the ongoing eruption in Meradalir, on the Reykjanes peninsula. RÚV reports that the decision was made at the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management meeting with other response teams today. The eruption site is closed to all visitors today for the third day in a row due to weather conditions.
The Meradalir eruption began last Wednesday afternoon, near the site of the Geldingadalir eruption of last year. Search and rescue crews have been stationed at the site ever since to direct visitors and respond in case of emergencies. While most visitors to the eruption follow directions, there have been cases of those who do not respect closures or visit the site with young children, putting themselves in danger.
Children are particularly vulnerable to gas poisoning at eruption sites as they are both more sensitive to the gases and more easily exposed to heavy gases that gather close to the ground. Furthermore, the hike to the Meradalir eruption is long and challenging even for experienced adults.
Exhaustion and hypothermia
Search and rescue crews came to the assistance of a couple with two preschool-aged children at the eruption site last Saturday. The four were on their way back from the eruption, when tour guide Hermann Valsson encountered them in distress, the parents exhausted and the children with hypothermia.
The father initially tried to refuse help due to concerns that he would be fined or charged for the assistance. Hermann stated that it is locals’ responsibility to ensure that foreign visitors are well-informed about the conditions they are setting out into, as well as that the assistance of search and rescue crews is always free.
Hike not for beginners
The hike to the Meradalir eruption is around 14 kilometres [8.7 miles] round trip. The hike includes significant elevation as well as difficult terrain and is not for the inexperienced or those who are unprepared.
Read more about what you need to know when visiting the Meradalir eruption.