Blue Lagoon Reopens Despite Ongoing Eruption

blue lagoon Iceland

The popular tourist destination Blue Lagoon reopened at noon today after being temporarily closed since a volcanic eruption began in nearby Sundhnúkagígar on March 16.

The spa was evacuated when the eruption began and has been closed for three months in total during the span of volcanic activity in Sundhnúkagígar that started in November of last year. Concerns over gas pollution from the volcano were the main reason for closure this time around.

Coordination with police

Helga Árnadóttir, Blue Lagoon manager, told RÚV that staff and management were excited to begin operations again following this latest three week shutdown. “We’ve been in conversation with the Suðurnes police commissioner and gone over the situation, the shifts, measurements, risk assessments and other things,” she said. “And the result was that we agreed that it would be sensible to reopen today.”

Increased security

Helga said that operating hours would be adjusted according to gas pollution estimates and wind forecasts at each time. “It’s all to ensure that we’re not risking the safety of our guests and staff at any given time,” she said, adding that wind forecasts for the next few days were looking good. Gas meters have been set up along the area and safety personnel are on duty to help with response if evacuation is needed at any time.

Eruption Cycle Near Grindavík Could End Soon

gígur, crater, eruption, eldgos

The current volcanic eruption in Sundhnúkagígar could mark the end of a string of eruptions in the area near Grindavík, despite now being in its third week and still chugging along.

The eruption began on March 16 and activity remains in two craters in the area, with steady lava flow and no immediate signs of the eruption ending, according to an Mbl.is report. More of the activity is ongoing in the larger of the two craters. Some gas pollution could be detected in Grindavík and Hafnir today.

Magma flowing from deep

However, there are signs that this might be the final eruption in the cycle of volcanic activity which began at the end of last year. Þor­vald­ur Þórðar­son, professor of volcanology at the University of Iceland, told Mbl.is this weekend that activity in Sundhnúkagígar might be coming to a close.

The shallower magma chamber in the area, situated under Svartsengi near the tourist destination Blue Lagoon, which has been closed since the current eruption started, is no longer receiving magma from the eruption, Þorvaldur explains. Therefore, magma from the deeper magma chamber in the area is flowing to the surface. “This could chug on for the next few days,” he said Saturday. “We’re not talking about the eruption ending in the next few hours.”

Activity elsewhere still possible

“I believe that when this eruption stops the activity in Sundhnúkagígar will end,” Þorvaldur added. “That doesn’t mean, however, that there won’t be activity elsewhere. Since this is coming from the deeper magma chamber and crustal uplift has stopped, the process we’ve seen since November 10 is ending. In my estimation, this activity has been connected to magma flowing from the deeper chamber to the shallower one.”

Authorities Combat Fake Volcano News

eruption, Stóra-Skógfell, Sundhnjúkargígarröð

Minister of Culture and Business Affairs, Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir, has spent ISK 100 million [€670,690 / $725,584] on marketing to respond to and correct international news coverage on the volcanic activity in the Reykjanes peninsula over the last few months.

The current eruption has been ongoing since Saturday, making it the longest-lasting in the recent spell of volcanic activity on the peninsula.

Imprecise reporting

The Icelandic Tourism Board, social media influencers and others have received public funding from the ministry, Vísir reports. “It’s very important that the correct information gets out there,” Lilja said, pointing to a BBC online article which indicated that Iceland was in a “state of emergency”. This would be an imprecise translation of the civil protection alert levels which the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management decides on at any given time.

Effect on tourism

Other news articles have connected the volcanic activity to tourism and questioning whether anyone would want to go to Iceland. “Tourism is the industry responsible for most of our foreign currency income, around 35%,” Lilja said, adding that tourism was an important pillar in securing the stability of the Icelandic Króna, along with energy intensive industries, fisheries and the creative and tech industries.

 

New Eruption Lengthier Than Previous Ones

The latest Reykjanes peninsula eruption has already gone on for longer than the previous three eruptions in this recent spell of volcanic activity in the area. The eruption, which began Saturday, is still being fed by magma pooling under nearby Svartsengi, which is causing crustal uplift in the area, RÚV reports.

Lava may spare road

The fissure between Hagafell and Stóra Skógfell sent lava flowing both west and south and while the flow to the west has stopped, lava still flows to the south, bypassing the town of Grindavík, but heading in the direction of Suðurstrandarvegur.

This raised cause for concern, for several reasons. If it reached Suðurstrandarvegur that would naturally further impede traffic to and from central Reykjanes; the road Grindavíkurvegur, which connects Grindavík to the Reykjanesbraut highway, has already been overrun with lava. However, the lava has not crawled closer to Suðurstrandarvegur road since yesterday, according to local police.

Air pollution decreasing

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution from the eruption has decreased since the beginning of the eruption. Projections show the remaining air pollution spreading to the northeast from the eruption site.

The Suðurnes police commissioner has allowed Grindavík residents and those employed in town to stay there and work, arguing that Grindavík is not under threat from the current lava flow. However, it is recommended that people don’t stay in Grindavík overnight.

Eruption Imminent as Blue Lagoon is Evacuated

The Blue Lagoon Iceland

The town of Grindavík and its nearby area, including the popular tourist attraction Blue Lagoon, have been evacuated. An eruption in Sundhnúkagígar is imminent, according to the Icelandic Meteorological Office, Mbl.is reports.

“We expect an eruption any minute,” Úlfar Lúðvíksson, police commissioner of Reykjanes, told Mbl.is. “This is why we’re evacuating.

Some 600 to 800 people were at the Blue Lagoon when it was evacuated at around 4 pm today. This includes staff and guests of the spa and resort. Evacuation was completed in 40 minutes, according to manager Helga Árnadóttir.

A spell of seismic activity began at Sundhnúkagígar around 4 pm and a magma intrusion could have begun, according to the Icelandic Meteorological Office.

We will update this story as it develops.

Police Reassess Grindavík Risks

Grindavík crevasse

The Reykjanes police commissioner will maintain the restrictions for access to Grindavík that have been in place for the last five weeks, despite the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management’s order to evacuate having expired yesterday. The situation is being reassessed, RÚV reports.

The January 14 volcanic eruption near Grindavík destroyed three houses, caused crevasses to form across town, and displaced the 3,800 inhabitants for the foreseeable future. The town had already been evacuated once before, on November 10 last year, due to seismic activity. The latest eruption on February 8 damaged a hot water pipeline, cutting off heating for Reykjanes homes.

Eruption risks remain

Access to Grindavík will be controlled by the Reykjanes police commissioner going forward. According to the Icelandic Meteorological Office, there is still major risk of crevasses in Grindavík, while crustal uplift by nearby Svartsengi continues and likelihood of further eruptions remains.

“The conclusion of the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management’s crevasse risk assessment is that stay and work activities in Grindavík are acceptable in light of the countermeasures in place,” the department announced in a notice. Dangerous areas of the town have been fenced off and access to them limited.

Reykjanes Avoids Frost Damage

reykjanes eruption at sundhnúk february 2024

Very little or no frost damage seems to have occurred in Reykjanes peninsula buildings after lava from the February 8 volcanic eruption damaged a hot water pipeline. Both homes and industrial properties were without water for days while work on a new pipeline took place.

According to an Mbl.is inquiry, no reports of frost damage were sent to the distribution company HS Veitur, to the Natural catastrophe insurance of Iceland, or to insurance companies TM, Sjóvá or VÍS. No frost damage occurred at any institutions of the Reykjanesbær municipality.

A concerted effort

Páll Erland, director of HS Veitur, said that even though assistance was requested in multiple houses, no frost damage has been reported. He told Mbl.is that this could be considered a miracle, especially after days of no hot water available for heating. He said that some damage could come to light later on, especially now that hot water is being returned to the system. “This looks very good, however, as it stands today,” Páll said.

Páll added that success during this challenging time is owed to Reykjanes residents who obeyed electricity use guidelines during the hot water outage. The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management has dispatched a team of plumbers over the last few days to help HS Veitur secure hot water flow to Reykjanes buildings. Tanker trucks were also sent from neighbouring Hafnarfjörður, delivering 1,800 tonnes of hot water to the area.

Insurance cases avoided

Frost damage due to a lack of hot water falls through the cracks of both traditional insurance and natural catastrophe insurance. It was therefore important for residents of Reykjanes to avoid frost damage after the hot water pipeline was damaged by lava flow.

Lack of Access to Grindavík “Dystopian”, Journalists Claim

An ambulance lingers just outside of Grindavík

The Suðurnes police commissioner has limited access to Grindavík for journalists since the January 14 volcanic eruption. Sigríður Dögg Auðunsdóttir, the president of the Union of Icelandic Journalists, told Heimildin that it was dystopian and surrealistic that the commissioner was “applying censorship and limiting journalists’ freedom of speech by limiting journalists’ access to the area with no rational cause.”

The January 14 volcanic eruption near Grindavík destroyed three houses, caused crevasses to form across town, and displaced the 3,800 inhabitants for the foreseeable future. The town had already been evacuated once before, on November 10 last year, due to seismic activity. Grindavík residents await a government decision on how they can be helped while displaced.

Major historical event

Journalists were allowed to enter Grindavík yesterday for two hours. This was the first time they’ve been allowed to enter since January 15. Authorities say that the restrictions are due to consideration for the residents and the vast emergency response in the area. The police have not received any written requests from residents asking them to limit journalists’ access to the town.

Sigríður Dögg says that journalists should be allowed to document major historical events, such as last weekend when residents transported their belongings from the danger area. “Especially since the commissioner has no legal foundation for these restrictions, she said.”

Chaperoned visit on a bus

The journalists were herded into a bus and chaperoned by emergency response personnel. A special unit police officer decided where the bus went. A half-dozen stops were made in town, limited to areas with crevasses or damages, but nowhere near people. Only two areas were designated for flying drones to photograph. Heimildin reports that attending journalists were unhappy with the arrangements.

In November, the union petitioned the Ministry of Justice to increase access to the danger area, but the ministry has not responded. “History has shown us that documentation of major events in Iceland’s history is incredibly important going forward,” Sigríður added. “Especially for those who experienced the disaster.”

Grindavík Residents Visit Their Homes

Reykjanes peninsula eruptions

Authorities gave permission yesterday for Grindavík residents to enter the town and pick up some of their belongings. Residents were allowed re-entry in groups and had three hours to collect their most important possessions, Morgunblaðið reports.

This was the first time residents were allowed back into town since a volcanic eruption began on January 14. The eruption near Grindavík destroyed three houses, caused crevasses to form across town, and displaced the 3,800 inhabitants for the unforeseeable future. The town had already been evacuated once before, on November 10 last year, due to seismic activity.

Strict rules for re-entry

Many Grindavík residents had not returned to town since before Christmas and were anxious to receive permission from police and authorities to return. The road conditions on Krýsuvíkurvegur were suboptimal during the visiting hours and many cars got stuck in snow. Even though the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration cleared the road yesterday morning, heavy snowfall caused condition to quickly deteriorate.

Residents had to follow strict rules during their visit. They were not allowed to adjust the heating in their homes, use bathrooms, or move around the town. Many open crevasses remain across the area and infrastructure is damaged.

Family displaced

“We picked up more clothes and toys for our children,” said resident Alexandra Hauksdóttir, who returned with her husband Gunnar. “Gunnar took his golf clubs and we also picked up our pizza oven. Just this and that, but no large items.”

The couple moved in to a new house two and a half years ago, but it is now near the largest crevasse and the lava which flowed into town. “I felt at home there,” Alexandra told Morgunblaðið and added that they would like to return with their two children when it’s safe. “We’re staying in Keflavík in a 60 square metre apartment, down from 190. It makes a difference.”

The Icelandic Red Cross has set up a page with donation options for those wishing to lend support. This includes both one-time donations and repeat subscriptions.

Lava Flow from Grindavík Fissures Stops

No activity has been observed in the fissures north of Grindavík since 1:08 AM this morning and the volcanic eruption seems to have petered out, according to the Icelandic Meteorological Office. The situation will be assessed in the daily meeting of scientists later this morning, Vísir reports.

The southern fissure that opened up near Grindavik had ceased erupting yesterday, having claimed three houses in town. Lava still flowed from the northern fissure, but protective barriers that had been built to divert the lava flow away from the town had proven effective. This flow now appears to have stopped.

New crevasses forming

“There are many new crevasses in Grindavík,” Elísabet Pálmadóttir from the Icelandic Meteorological Office told Vísir this morning. “The police was in contact with us in the night. They had been flying drones over the area and taking photos of new and growing crevasses. It’s devastating.”

She added that the ground is constantly shifting, with new crevasses emerging while others grow larger. Considerable damage has been done to the town so far. Grindavík is without electricity, hot water, and cold water, and lava has reportedly poured over water piping to the area.

Helping Grindavík

There are numerous ways in which you can provide support for the people of Grindavík, even if you do not live in Iceland. The Icelandic Red Cross has set up a page with donation options for those wishing to lend support. This includes both one-time donations and repeat subscriptions.