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.”

Lava Flow Eases Near Grindavík, Southern Fissure Halts

Grindavík

The southern fissure near Grindavik has ceased erupting, with lava mainly flowing from the northern fissure as it stands; protective barriers are proving effective. Key response teams are meeting to address the situation in Grindavik this morning.

660 earthquakes

The flow of lava from the volcanic eruption near Grindavík along the protective barrier, erected north of the town, has decreased. As it stands, the lava seems to be mainly issuing from two to four vents on the northern fissure, the one that opened just before 8 AM yesterday, RÚV reports

The southern fissure, which opened near the northernmost houses in Grindavik at noon yesterday, seems to have stopped erupting; its intensity decreased late last night, and it appears to have solidified overnight. With the dawn breaking, the situation in Grindavik is expected to become clearer in the coming hours.

As noted by Vísir, there have been approximately 660 earthquakes on the Reykjanes peninsula since midnight. The largest was of magnitude 1.8. Most of the earthquakes have been registered around Mt. Hagafell, although a few have also been detected near the magma dyke below Grindavík.

Protective barriers proved their worth

Engineer Ari Guðmundsson told RÚV this morning that the barrier north of Grindavik was about halfway completed, i.e. half its height, when the eruption began yesterday morning.

“We had the opportunity to make some relatively short barriers in 2021 and saw their effectiveness. We are building on that. Yesterday’s eruption demonstrated their worth, with regard to construction and height. But this is, of course, always dependent on where the lava emerges and the like. That matters a lot, too,” Ari observed.

Yesterday, last night, and this morning, work has been done to raise parts of Nesvegur road on the north side of Grindavík, and the area in its vicinity, so that it could serve as a barrier. This is done in case the lava flow extends further south. Ari told RÚV that an emphasis was being placed on ensuring the safety of those working on the project.

Authorities meet

Speaking to Vísir this morning, Úlfar Lúðvíksson, the police chief in Suðurnes, stated that all the key response teams were currently meeting this morning to review the situation in Grindavík. A meeting with the coordination centre of the National Police Commissioner began at 8 AM.

“We are reviewing the state of affairs in Grindavík. The town lacks hot and cold water and electricity. We are considering how to save valuables and assessing the situation. The town is obviously dangerous. There is an eruption just outside the town and lava flow has already caused damage,” Úlfar remarked. 

He added that meetings will also be held with representatives from the Icelandic Meteorological Office today.

Premature to Declare Official End of Eruption, Experts Caution

A volcanic eruption near Sýlingafell in 2023

Experts are in consensus that the volcanic activity on the Reykjanes peninsula has ceased, though an official declaration marking the end of the eruption is still pending. The Chief of the Suðurnes Police hopes that after today’s meeting with the Icelandic MET Office, the authorities will be able to lift the restrictions in Grindavík.

Important to proceed cautiously

In an interview with RÚV published this morning, volcanologist Ármann Höskuldsson stated that the eruption near Sýlingafell on the Reykjanes peninsula was over. Kristín Jónsdóttir, a department head with the Icelandic MET Office, agreed with his assertion; there is no longer any measurable volcanic activity in the area.

Nevertheless, Kristín cautioned that it was too soon to officially declare the end of the eruption given that the situation could change rapidly; it is important to proceed cautiously, especially given the proximity of the eruption site to critical infrastructure.

Magma accumulation resumed

As reported by IR yesterday, there are indications that magma accumulation has resumed beneath Svartsengi. Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson, a geophysics professor at the University of Iceland, told RÚV that this renewed magma accumulation at Svartsengi closely resembles the conditions prior to the Sýlingafell eruption.

“If the magma continues its upward movement into the chamber beneath Svartsengi, we may witness a similar series of events,” he noted. Magnús Tumi added that it could take weeks or months for this to occur, however, and there’s also a possibility that the process might cease entirely.

Hoping for a homecoming

Úlfar Lúðvíksson, the Chief of Police in Suðurnes, told RÚV yesterday that scientists would review new data this morning, with a meeting with the Icelandic MET Office being scheduled for 1 PM today.

“I expect that the meeting will involve a review of the risk assessment map and, of course, I hope for a change that will allow residents to return home,” Úlfar stated. He mentioned that such speculations had already started before the eruption completely subsided. “One is always hopeful, and we will lift these restrictions if we find that such a thing is warranted.”

As noted by RÚV, applications for rental apartments for residents of Grindavík through the leasing company Bríet opened today. The application deadline is 10 AM tomorrow. The aim is to allocate most of the apartments on the same day.

Grindavík Homecoming Unlikely in the Near Term

Photo from the mandatory evacuation of Grindavík in Reykajnes

The town of Grindavík has suffered significant earthquake damage, impacting homes and infrastructure. The Head of the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management told reporters yesterday that the ongoing uncertainty regarding a possible eruption means that it is unlikely that Grindavík residents will be able to return to their homes in the near future.

More damage than expected

The town of Grindavík, on the Reykjanes peninsula, was succesfully evacuated during the early hours of Saturday, November 12, amid concerns that the intrusion of magma, believed to extend beneath the town, would reach the surface. An emergency phase was declared, and the Red Cross set up three emergency relief centres.

The quakes continued into Saturday. By Sunday, it was clear that major damage being inflicted on the the town, affecting houses, roads, and infrastructure. “The town has suffered extensive damage,” Úlfar Lúðvíksson, Chief of Police in Suðurnes, told RÚV during the evening news yesterday.

Parts of the town have been without hot water and electricity owing to damage to the distribution system of the HS Veitur utility company. Large parts of Grindavík have been too hazardous to enter, and HS Veitur has not allowed its employees to venture into those areas for repairs.

New assessment expected tomorrow

A new assessment from the Icelandic Meteorological Office is awaited and expected to be published tomorrow. The new assessment will provide a clearer picture of the situation, including whether the magma is still rising and how close it has risen to the surface.

Seismic activity has, however, significantly decreased since Friday and Saturday. “There is nothing to suggest that there will be a significant eruption,” Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson, a professor of geophysics, told reporters yesterday, noting that he believes the likelihood of an undersea eruption has diminished.

Unlikely that residents can return soon

Despite a decrease in seismic activity, it is unlikely that Grindavík residents will be able to return to their homes in the near future – even if a volcanic eruption does not occur in the next few days.

Víðir Reynisson, Department Manager of the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, told RÚV yesterday that events were still unfolding, and even if seismic activity continued over the two weeks without an eruption, the evacuation would remain in effect: “Even if the activity completely stops, and scientists believe that this event is over, it will take some time before we can be certain that this activity will not pick up again. Only then will residents be allowed to return home,” Víðir explained.

Víðir also noted that if an eruption occurs that is far from Grindavík, the evacuation would continue to be in place; such an eruption could last for some time.

Admitted into the safest neighbourhood

Residents of the Þórkötlustaðahverfi neighbourhood in Grindavík, in the easternmost part of town, were afforded a brief window (ca. 5 minutes) to retrieve their belongings and pets yesterday. One resident, having received help from two Keflavík residents, managed to retrieve 66 animals: 35 sheep, 20 hens, and a cat.

The organisation Dýrfinna has collected information about animals left behind in Grindavík, which include 58 cats, 2 rabbits, 2 hamsters, 49 horses, 50 chickens, 13 parrots, 130 pigeons, 204 sheep, and 15,000 chickens. Despite hoping that they would be allowed to enter Grindavík to rescue pets, the authorities refused to admit anyone into the town, aside from residents of the Þórkötlustaðahverfi neighbourhood.

Decisions made tomorrow morning

Once a new risk assessment is available tomorrow morning, a decision will be made regarding the next steps. “We are doing what we can to accommodate the people of Grindavík, allowing them to access essential items in their homes,” Úlfar Lúðvíksson told RÚV yesterday.

Bomb Threat on German Flight Investigated at Keflavík Airport

An airplane on its way from Frankfurt, Germany to Seattle, Washington in the US landed in Keflavík on Monday afternoon as a result of an onboard bomb threat. RÚV reports that the plane turned around over Greenland when Icelandic aviation authorities received word that a passenger on the plane had written “BOMB” on the mirror in one of the aircraft lavatories.

Two hundred and sixty-six passengers were onboard the flight, which was operated by German airline Condor. The plane was successfully evacuated after landing in Keflavík. Bomb squads from the National Police Commissioner’s special forces and the Icelandic Coast Guard were called to the scene, but no bomb was found, neither on a passenger’s person, in the onboard luggage, or on the plane itself.

All flight passengers were interrogated on Monday and evidence collected from passengers’ luggage. The initial investigation was concluded around midnight, by which point, the passengers had been waiting in a closed section of the airport for seven hours. They were then transported to 11 different hotels in the area for the evening and the original aircraft was flown back to Germany. A new aircraft with a new crew was sent in its place.

On Tuesday afternoon, all the flight’s passengers were allowed to leave the country on the new aircraft, which departed from Keflavík around 3:00 pm.

The culprit behind the threat has not yet been identified.

Police will continue to investigate the incident. Úlfar Lúðvíksson, chief of police in Suðurnes, says the investigation will be extensive and could take several months.