Iceland's lava flows slow after day of destruction

  • By Ruth Comerford
  • BBC News

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WATCH: Buildings engulfed by molten rock as lava reaches Icelandic town

Lava flows have slowed after a volcano erupted in southwest Iceland and destroyed several homes.

A volcano on the Reykjanes peninsula erupted on Sunday, spilling molten rock into the town of Grindavik. Local people were evacuated.

Defenses built after an explosion in December were breached in some places and houses were set on fire. But by Monday, the flow had almost stopped.

Officials say there is no danger to the rest of Iceland.

Dr Matthew Roberts of the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) told the BBC on Monday that the situation near Grindavik was “very relaxed”.

He said micro-earthquakes — those that people usually don't feel — are still occurring, but their number and intensity are decreasing.

However, many Grindavik residents have been traumatized by the eruption.

“Watching your house burn on live TV is something you can't handle easily,” Unndor Sigurtsson told the MBL news website.

He said his family left almost all their belongings behind when they were evacuated, leaving only clothes and essentials.

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A volcano erupts on the Reykjanes peninsula spewing lava and smoke

There was no disruption to domestic and international flights. The IMO's aviation color code for the Reykjanes peninsula on Monday morning was orange, indicating “no or little ash emissions” from the eruption.

Addressing the nation on Sunday evening, President Gudney Johansson urged people to “stand together and show compassion for those who cannot be in their homes”.

Volcanologist Evgenia Ilyinskaya told BBC Breakfast that the peninsula could be entering a period of more frequent eruptions known as the New Reykjanes Fires.

Professor Ilinskaya said eruptions could occur “every few months or once a year for decades or centuries”.

The Reykjanes Fires were a series of episodes of intense volcanic activity on the peninsula in the 12th century.

The December eruption was preceded by strong tremors in the Schwarzenegger volcanic system. Within weeks, walls were built around the volcano to channel molten rock away from the town of Grindavik, home to about 4,000 people.

Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdóttir said the eruption was “a black day for all of Iceland”, but added that “the sun will rise again”.

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Lava spreads across the Reykjanes Peninsula

Sunday's eruption was the fifth since 2021 on the Reykjanes Peninsula.

Iceland sits on the boundary between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, known as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge – the two largest on the planet. Iceland has 33 volcanic systems.

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