Iceland is on high alert as authorities have declared a state of emergency in response to a series of earthquakes shaking the Reykjanes peninsula. The region, located in the country’s south-west, is experiencing heightened seismic activity, raising concerns of a potential volcanic eruption.
With 33 active volcanic systems, Iceland holds the record for the highest number in Europe. Since late October, thousands of tremors have been recorded, prompting the head of the national police force to declare a state of emergency for civil defense in the area north of Grindavik.
“The earthquakes may become more significant, and this series of events could lead to an eruption,” warned the civil defense authority in a statement. The Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) further indicated that an eruption could occur within the next few days.
To ensure the safety of residents, evacuation plans are in motion for the town of Grindavik, home to approximately 4,000 people, situated just three kilometers from the epicenter of the seismic swarm. The Thor patrol boat has been dispatched to Grindavik for safety purposes, as authorities take precautionary measures. The ‘Blue Lagoon,’ a renowned tourist site near Grindavik known for its geothermal spas, has been closed as a precautionary measure.
Friday Evening Earthquakes
Friday evening witnessed two significant earthquakes, the strongest measuring a magnitude of 5.2, felt as far away as the capital, Reykjavik, and along a large part of the country’s southern coast.
The Icelandic Meteorological Office reported a dense swarm of almost 800 earthquakes recorded between midnight and 14:00 GMT on Friday, with a total of 24,000 tremors recorded on the peninsula since the end of October. An accumulation of magma at a depth of five kilometers has been observed, and if brought to the surface, it could trigger a volcanic eruption.
Notably, the Reykjanes peninsula has witnessed three eruptions since 2021, occurring in March 2021, August 2022, and July 2023, all fortunately far from infrastructure or populated areas. Iceland’s history includes the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption, which disrupted European skies and led to the cancellation of 100,000 flights, leaving ten million passengers stranded. The current situation underscores the ongoing geological activity in the region, warranting vigilant monitoring and swift response measures.