Iceland’s authorities have announced a state of emergency following a sequence of tremors that experts believe signal an upcoming volcanic eruption.
According to Iceland’s Met Office, the seismic activity was concentrated in the southwestern Reykjanes Peninsula. However, it has since moved south toward Grindavík. The nature of the activity there suggests an eruption could take place in the days, it further added.
“Earthquakes can become larger than those that have occurred and this series of events could lead to an eruption,” the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management said in a statement late Friday.
Tracking the tremors
Some 24,000 tremors have been registered on the peninsula since late October, according to the Icelandic Met Office (IMO). This includes a “dense swarm” of nearly 800 quakes registered between midnight and 1400 GMT Friday.
“At this stage, it is not possible to determine exactly whether and where magma might reach the surface,” the IMO said in its latest update on Friday night.
“There are indications that a considerable amount of magma is moving in an area extending from Sundhnjúkagígum in the north toward Grindavík. The amount of magma involved is significantly more than what was observed in the largest magma intrusions associated with the eruptions at Fagradalsfjall,” it said.
Since 2021, three eruptions have taken place on the Reykjanes peninsula, in March 2021, August 2022 and July 2023. They have all been away from populated areas.
The IMO, in a post on their website, said that the seismic activity is “very similar” to that seen before the Fagradalsfjall eruption in 2021.
Evacuation of Grindavik
Home to around 4,000 people, the village of Grindavik is located some 3 kilometres (1.86 miles) southwest of the area where the swarm of earthquakes was registered.
The civil protection department said that it had completed the village’s evacuation by 1 a.m. local time without any problems. “Most of the responders have come to rest.”
After a meeting with the IMO, the department decided to “further increase precautions” and call emergency personnel from the area.
“Police are manning lockdown posts and will continue to provide security in the area.”