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Photo: Photo: Golli. Reykjanes Peninsula .

Grindavík, Blue Lagoon Evacuated as Eruption Appears Imminent

Increased seismic activity near the Sundhnúkar craters on the Reykjanes peninsula has prompted evacuations in Grindavík and the Blue Lagoon due to the likelihood of a volcanic eruption. A volcanologist has stated that the frequency of recent earthquakes makes an eruption highly probable, Vísir reports.

Grindavík, Blue Lagoon evacuated

As noted in an announcement from the Icelandic Meteorological Office this morning, increased seismic activity has been recorded near the Sundhnúkar craters on the Reykjanes peninsula, which could precede a volcanic eruption or magma intrusion.

The announcement suggests that a magma intrusion might be beginning or already underway, and a volcanic eruption is likely to follow. Evacuations have begun in Grindavík, Vísir reports.

Speaking to Mbl.is this morning, police officer Hjálmar Hallgrímsson stated that the evacuation was going very well. “There are few residents in town, but there are quite a few people at work, mainly in the harbor area, and we are gathering those people from the town, and it is going well.”

The Blue Lagoon was successfully evacuated at 11:40 AM. An estimated 800 people were situated in the company’s operational area this morning, Mbl.is reports.

Warning sirens activated

As reported by Mbl.is this morning, warning sirens have begun sounding in Grindavík, and notifications have been sent to residents to evacuate the Grindavík area due to the imminent volcanic eruption. Emergency responders are on-site, with additional personnel on their way to assist and inform people.

In an interview with Mbl.is, Hjördís Guðmundsdóttir, Public Relations Officer for the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, stated she did not know how many people were situated in Grindavík, although she noted that many were at work, especially near the harbor: “We are currently anticipating [an eruption]. It is very important for people to remain calm and evacuate calmly,” Hjördís stated.

The Mayor of Grindavík has since estimated that individuals have been residing in about 30 homes in Grindavík recently.

Evacuees asked to register with the Red Cross

The Red Cross asks residents of Grindavík who are currently evacuating to contact them at 1717 for registration purposes. Alternatively, people can visit the main Red Cross office at Efstaleiti 9 in Reykjavík and register at the reception if that is more convenient.

Likely that “an eruption will start today”

In an interview with Vísir today, volcanologist Ármann Höskuldsson stated that, given the frequent earthquakes in the past few hours, it is highly likely that an eruption will start today.

“Something has started to shake, and this will obviously end in an eruption,” Ármann observed, noting that the seismic activity had become quite intense near the Sundhnúkar craters. The Meteorological Office’s website shows that there have been around 20 earthquakes in the area over the past two hours. “If this continues, it is very likely that an eruption will occur near Sundhnúkar,” Ármann stated.

As reported in IR this morning, 20 million cubic metres of magma had accumulated beneath Svartsengi as of yesterday.

Eruption doesn’t always follow magma intrusion 

In an interview with RÚV, Lovísa Mjöll Guðmundsdóttir, a natural hazard specialist with the Icelandic Meteorological Office, stated that seismic activity had increased just after 10:30 PM, mainly east of Mt. Sýlingarfell.

“Tremor levels began rising as well, indicating that a magma intrusion was underway.”

Lovísa noted that a small magma intrusion has occasionally occurred without leading to an eruption. “The question is whether there is enough pressure for the magma to push through.”

The earthquakes are still at a depth of three to five kilometers. “The magma is attempting to push through. While seismic activity has slightly slowed, this can change very quickly,” Lovísa observed.

Additional information on tourist safety

For more information on tourist safety on the Reykjanes peninsula, see our latest In Focus Article.

“With four eruptions in the Sundhnúkagígar crater system during this spell, it’s no wonder that prospective tourists have been asking themselves if it’s still safe to visit Iceland. The short answer is ‘yes, absolutely.’ The long answer is ‘yes, but use common sense!’”

For a live stream of previous eruption sites on Reykjanes, click here.

This article was updated at 12:34 PM.

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