Iceland hit by largest volcano eruption yet with hundreds evacuated and state of emergency declared in fourth flare-up

17 March 2024, 07:48 | Updated: 17 March 2024, 08:38

A state of emergency has been declared in Iceland after suffering its fourth volcano eruption in three months.
A state of emergency has been declared in Iceland after suffering its fourth volcano eruption in three months. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Jenny Medlicott

A state of emergency has been declared in southern Iceland after a volcano has erupted for the fourth time in three months.

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It is believed to be the most powerful one so far with lava travelling as far as the evacuated town of Grindavik.

Iceland's Meteorological Office said the eruption opened a fissure about two miles long between Stora-Skogfell and Hagafell mountains on the Reykjanes Peninsula

It comes after authorities had warned another eruption was imminent.

Hundreds of people were evacuated from Blue Lagoon, a thermal spa that is one of Iceland's most popular tourist attractions, when the eruption began.

Meanwhile, residents of the fishing town Grindavik had to be evacuated after some of the 4,000 initially evacuated had returned following the previous outbreaks.

It comes after Grindavik was evacuated in November when the Svartsengi volcanic system awakened after almost 800 years with a series of earthquakes that opened large cracks in the ground north of the town.

The volcano eventually erupted on December 18, sending lava flowing away from Grindavik.

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Dramatic photos show the latest eruption.
Dramatic photos show the latest eruption. Picture: Alamy

A second occurred on January 14 followed by a third on February 8.

Residents were permitted to return to their homes on February 19.

The latest eruption began around 8pm local time on Saturday, according to the country’s civil defence service.

There have been no disruptions to flights at Keflavik, Iceland's main airport.

Footage captured of the latest eruption shows billowing smoke and magma spilling from vents in the earth.

Geophysicist Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson, who flew over the impacted areas in a helicopter, said the latest eruption is the most powerful so far.

He also warned that if the volcanic activity does not ease, it is possible lava could spill into the sea, he told local media outlet RUV.

Residents were evacuated.
Residents were evacuated. Picture: Alamy

Einar Bessi Gestsson, a natural disaster expert at the Norwegian Meteorological Agency, said such contact between the lava and sea could result in dangerous gases and small explosions.

The Icelandic Met Office warned that this lava bed was “significantly wider” than the one that followed the February eruption.

Iceland, which sits above a volcanic hot spot in the North Atlantic, sees regular eruptions and is highly experienced at dealing with them.

No confirmed deaths have been reported from any of the recent eruptions but a workman was declared missing after falling into a fissure opened by the volcano.