A volcano in southwestern Iceland erupted yesterday for the third time since December, spraying streams of lava up to 80 metres (260 feet) into the air and triggering an emergency warning as thousands of households lost heating in the middle of winter.
Bright orange molten rock spewed from cracks in the ground in the Reykjanes peninsula and lava crossed a road near the Blue Lagoon - a luxury geothermal spa - which had to close due to the eruption.
The intensity of the outbreak had eased by yesterday afternoon, said the Icelandic Met Office which is tasked with monitoring volcanoes. Still, the lava flow hit water pipes in the region just south of the capital, disrupting the supply of geothermally-heated water used to warm homes and leading the Civil Protection Agency to raise its alert level to emergency status.
Reykjavik’s Keflavik Airport also lost access to hot water but said it had otherwise maintained operations as usual.
The temperature in the area stood at -7 degrees Celsius and was forecast to drop to -10C in the evening.
Rikke Pedersen, who heads the Nordic Volcanological Centre research group based in Reykjavik, said
more than 20,000 people had lost access to hot water.
The Civil Protection Agency asked people in the affected area to only use one small electrical heater per households to prevent blackouts.
Restoring hot water via an emergency pipeline that was already under construction could take days, it said.
Volcanic outbreaks in the Reykjanes peninsula are so-called fissure eruptions, which do not usually cause large explosions or significant dispersal of ash into the stratosphere. However, scientists fear they could continue for years, and Icelandic authorities have started building dykes to divert burning lava flows away from homes and
The lava stream also came within 1km of the peninsula’s Svartsengi geothermal power plant, Pedersen said.
As the lava flowed, workers were trying to fill in gaps in the protective dykes built along the road.
“So they are really doing all they can to prevent lava reaching the power plant,” she said.
The latest eruptive fissure, the sixth outbreak since 2021, was roughly 3km long. Intense earthquake activity began around 5.30am and the eruption itself 30 minutes later. A plume of smoke rose 3 km into the air, according to the Met Office