Volcano Erupts in Southwestern Iceland, Triggering Evacuations

Volcano Erupts in Southwestern Iceland, Triggering Evacuations

A volcano in southwestern Iceland erupted Wednesday for the fifth time since December, unleashing red streams of lava and prompting the evacuation of the popular Blue Lagoon geothermal spa.

Volcano Erupts in Southwestern Iceland, Triggering Evacuations

The eruption began in the early afternoon following a series of earthquakes north of Grindavik, a coastal town of 3,800 people that was largely evacuated in December when the volcano last erupted.

According to the Icelandic Meteorological Office, lava was shooting about 50 meters (165 feet) into the sky from a fissure approximately 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) long and flowing toward Grindavik.

Grindavik, located about 50 kilometers (30 miles) southwest of Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, has been under threat since a swarm of earthquakes in November forced an evacuation in advance of the initial December 18 eruption. A subsequent eruption overwhelmed some defensive walls and consumed several buildings.

The area is part of the Svartsengi volcanic system, which was dormant for nearly 800 years before reawakening.

The volcano erupted again in February and March. The February 8 eruption engulfed a pipeline, cutting off heat and hot water to thousands of people.

Iceland, situated above a volcanic hot spot in the North Atlantic, frequently experiences eruptions and is adept at managing them. The most disruptive recent eruption was in 2010 when the Eyjafjallajokull volcano spewed huge clouds of ash into the atmosphere, leading to widespread airspace closures over Europe.

The latest eruption was unlikely to pose a risk to air travel, Guðjón Helgason, press officer with airport operator ISAVIA, told the national broadcaster RUV.

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