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Volcano In Southwestern Iceland Is Erupting, Is It Safe To Travel?

Mt. Hagafell-Mt. Stóra Skógfell area eruption, Iceland March 22, 2024
Mt. Hagafell-Mt. Stóra Skógfell area eruption, Iceland March 22, 2024 [Image James St. John on Flickr]
On May 29, 2024, a volcano in southwestern Iceland started erupting, spewing red-hot lava up to 50 m (164 ft) in the air from a 1 km (0.6 mi) fissure. Meanwhile, this is the fifth time this particular volcano has erupted in the last three months. Anyone planning to visit the country should find out if it is safe to travel and whether the eruption will affect flights into the country.

Volcano in southwestern Iceland erupting

For the fifth time in the last three months, a volcano in Iceland is currently erupting. Starting in the early afternoon of May 29, lava has been spewing from the Sundhnúkur crater row and is still ongoing. Meanwhile, visitors at the Blue Lagoon thermal spa, one of the country’s top tourist attractions, have been evacuated for safety and the spa remains closed.

Moreover, the eruption site lies a few miles northeast of the coastal town of Grindavik and around 50 km (34 mi) from Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital. Residents in Grindavik have been evacuated for safety and roads around the town are closed to traffic.

Keflavik International Airport, the main airport in Iceland remains open, despite being only 20 km (12.5 mi) from the eruption. Anyone planning on traveling to or from the affected area should take note of the following. According to Iceland’s Meteorological Office:

Intense seismic activity is ongoing on the Sundhnúkur crater row. A magma propagation might be starting or has started, and a volcanic eruption could follow.

About volcanic activity in the area

Reportedly, the lava is shooting around 50 m (164 ft) into the air from a 1 km (0.6 mi) wide fissure. Meanwhile, residents of Grindavik were previously evacuated in November 2023 after a series of earthquakes opened cracks into the earth between that town and the small mountain of Sýlingarfell to the north.

Prior to the recent eruptions, the Svartsengi volcanic system had been dormant for some 780 years. Moreover, that volcano is only a few miles west of Fagradalsfjall, a volcano that was dormant for 6,000 years before it erupted in March 2021.

During an eruption in November,  authorities declared a state of emergency after hundreds of small earthquakes hit the Reykjanes Peninsula, which is Iceland’s most populated region.

Authorities in Iceland warn travelers

Vidir Reynisson, Head of the Civil Protection and Emergency Management in Iceland, told the national broadcaster RUV:

This is not a tourist attraction and you must watch it from a great distance.

However, while flights are currently still arriving and departing, the airport advises passengers to monitor flight information here.

Volcanic eruptions can become a major hazard to air travel as ash in the atmosphere can cause jet engines to fail. Moreover, it can reduce visibility and damage flight control systems. However, the officials at the airport are used to volcanic activity in Iceland and are fully prepared to deal with it without necessarily closing the airport.

Blue Lagoon Iceland
[Image Blue Lagoon Iceland on Facebook]
Meanwhile, visitors already in the country should avoid the area surrounding the eruption and follow the directions of local authorities. According to Euronews, travelers who have bookings at Blue Lagoon will be contacted and can be changed or canceled via the spa’s website here.

Readers can watch the volcano live on the BBC website here.

The previous volcano eruption in Iceland happened between Hagafell and Stóri-Skógfell on Saturday, March 16, 2024.


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