Iceland volcano set to erupt with thousands forced to flee homes to avoid 'fire fountains'

Fagradalsfjall/resident collecting her belongings

Below the town lies an 15km underground river of magma

Holly Bishop

By Holly Bishop

Published: 14/11/2023

- 15:02

Over 4,000 residents of the town of Grindavik have been forced to evacuate

Thousands of people have been ordered to evacuate their home in Iceland amid fears that a volcano is about to erupt.

Residents in the town of Grindavik have been forced to leave their homes due to the risk of “fire fountains” and noxious gasses produced by the Fagradalsfjall volcanic area.

Below the town, lies an underground river of magma, stretching about 15km.

Experts say that an eruption is possible anywhere along the “corridor” of hot liquid rock.

\u200bA resident of the town collecting her cats

A resident of the town collecting her cats


In total 4,000 residents of the village were told to vacate their properties on Saturday morning, after a series of earthquakes in the area led to an emergency evacuation.

Those who were forced to flee reported feeling “seasick” from the heavy tremors and heard “unholy sounds” from beneath the ground.

As well as the 15km underground flow of magma, sinkholes have also appeared across the town.

Dr Bill McGuire, professor emeritus of Geophysical & Climate Hazards, UCL, said: "Grindavik is very close to the position of the new fracture, and its survival is far from assured. Everything depends upon where magma eventually reaches the surface, but the situation doesn't look good for the residents of the town.”


Streetworks continue, after cracks emerged on a road due to volcanic activity near Grindavik

A series of earthquakes in the area led to an emergency evacuation


The Icelandic authorities have judged that the risk has temporarily eased enough to allow village residents to quickly hurry back to their houses to pick up pets, valuables, and essential items.

Those who decide to return are being escorted by search and rescue teams.

Only one person per household is allowed in at a time and they are given just five minutes to collect their belongings.

The village is located just six kilometres away from Svartsengi geothermal powerplant, where a large dike has been designed to protect the plant.

The purpose of the two-mile long gravel wall is to direct lava away from the facility.

The plant produces water and electricity for the entire country.

A view of cracks, emerged on a road due to volcanic activity, near Grindavik

Seismic activity is currently 'about a hundred tremors per hour'


A sign of the village of Grindavik, which was evacuated due to volcanic activity

Sinkholes have also appeared across the town


Matthew James Roberts, director of the service and research division at Iceland’s meteorological office, said: “We believe that this intrusion is literally hovering, sitting in equilibrium now just below the earth’s surface.

“We have this tremendous uncertainty now. Will there be an eruption and if so, what sort of damage will occur?”

Seismic activity is currently “about a hundred tremors per hour”.

In 2010, the Eyjafjallajojull volcano erupted in Iceland, which produced a huge ash cloud that led to the closure of most of the European airspace for six days in April.

However, experts have said that the circumstances of this volcanic activity is vastly different from the 2010 eruption and therefore, different impacts are to be expected.

"The Eyjafjallajokull eruption of 2010 was quite different as it was associated with a shield volcano topped by a glacier. It was the interaction of the magma with ice and melt water that made that eruption so explosive and dangerous for aviation. This is not the case here," said Dr Michele Paulatto, volcanologist at Imperial College London.

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