Tourists Stopped from Approaching Volcano

reykjanes eruption, april 2024.

Police has turned away several people attempting to walk to the ongoing volcanic eruption at Sundhnúkagígar, according to Suðurnes Police Commissioner Úlfar Lúðvíksson.

“We’ve had to shoo people away, but it hasn’t been a big group of people,” Úlfar told Mbl.is. “It’s mostly been foreign tourists.”

Minimal activity in Grindavík

Úlfar said that police are asking people not to get close on foot, as the area surrounding the eruption could be dangerous. The power of the eruption could increase with little notice or new fissures could open up. He said that authorities are monitoring the state of the eruption, which has been chugging along since March 16.

He added that in nearby Grindavík, which has been mostly abandoned since it was evacuated before a previous eruption, some 15 companies are still operating, most of them around the harbour area. Some 300 people work on site for these companies. Last night, locals stayed overnight in 20 Grindavík houses. The town is shielded from lava flow by protective man-made barriers.

Lava flow could increase

Vulcanologist Þorvaldur Þórðarson warned that the eruption could increase in power soon. He told Rás 2 radio this morning that even if the lava flow increased, the eruption would continue at a comfortable level and that there’s plenty of room in the area for the lava to pool.

“Even if the lava flow goes over the barriers, it will most likely only be in splashes coming down on the Grindavík side,” he said. “And it would strengthen the protective barriers. They’d be fortified on the inside, thereby increasing their resilience and height.”

Public Urged to Stay Away from Eruption

Reykjanes eruption, april 2024

Suðurnes police are urging people not to walk to the active Sundhnúksgígar volcano on foot. There is risk that ongoing eruption increases in power or that a new crater opens up nearby, RÚV reports.

Four eruptions have taken place in the area during this round of activity. The first one was in December, the second one in January, the third one in February and the latest one began on March 16 and has been ongoing since. The nearby town of Grindavík has sustained serious damage to infrastructure and three houses were destroyed by lava.

A second crater possible

According to Benedikt Ófeigsson with the Icelandic Meteorological Office, there is a great deal of uncertainty about what happens next. The magma chamber under Sundhnúkar has been filling up, which in the past has resulted in a magma intrusion or volcanic eruption.

“We haven’t seen this before, both an eruption and crustal uplift at the same time,” Benedikt said. “So there’s a great deal of uncertainty about what happens.”

He added that there would be no way of alerting people in the vicinity if a second crater opened up near the active one. “A two to three kilometre crevice could open up on short notice, which could create a dangerous situation.”

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Home for the Holidays: Grindavík Welcomes Back Residents

Grindavík - Þorbjörn

Beginning tomorrow, December 23, Grindavík residents will be allowed to return and stay overnight in town. Following the subsidence of the volcanic eruption near Sýlingafell, the authorities have decided to downgrade the alert status in Grindavík from an Emergency Phase to a Danger Phase.

Christmas after all

Beginning tomorrow, December 23 (The Mass of St. Thorlac, i.e. Þorláksmessa), the residents of Grindavík are permitted to enter and even stay overnight in the town, Vísir reports. Christmas in Grindavík will, therefore, be celebrated after all, at least by those Grindavík residents who wish to do so. This was noted in an announcement from the Police Commissioner of Suðurnes. The situation will be reassessed on December 27. 

The statement also notes that starting from December 23, roadblocks will be established on Grindavíkurvegur, Nesvegur, and Suðurstrandarvegur. These measures allow Grindavík residents, business owners, and their employees to bypass the roadblocks at any time and permit overnight stays within the town. However, access beyond these roadblocks is currently restricted to unrelated individuals, while major media outlets are granted passage.

Alert status lowered to Danger

As noted by Vísir, experts from the Icelandic MET Office at 9.30 AM today to review the latest data. At 1:00 PM, the MET Office held another meeting with the Police Commissioner in Suðurnes and the Commissioner of the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management.

Based on the latest risk assessment map from the Icelandic MET Office, Grindavík still faces a significant risk of natural disasters. Following indications that the volcanic eruption near Sundhnúkagígar, which started on December 18, has ceased, the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police, in consultation with the Police Commissioner of Suðurnes, has opted to lower the alert status from an Emergency Phase to a Danger Phase.