Magma is flowing in a 15-kilometer-long fissure 800 meters underground just outside Grindavik, according to Iceland’s Meteorological Institute.
The town is home to around 4,000 people and was evacuated overnight on Saturday. At a meeting on Sunday, authorities, in consultation with experts, decided to allow residents of one neighborhood to return to their homes and collect supplies and any pets.
Each person gets five minutes
When the emergency services escorted the tens of residents who are allowed to collect their most important possessions, they were given five minutes per person. A woman spoken to by Icelandic state television and radio company Rúv says she couldn’t take everything she wanted.
– You get so confused when you walk in. I just took what I saw around me. Pictures of the grandchildren, my wedding dress, pictures of me when I was little and artwork that I could sell, says Sólveig Þorbergsdóttir.
She hopes that she will be able to return to her house.
– The earth must help us now, hopefully this (volcanic eruption) will happen in the sea or up by the mountains.
The government in crisis meeting
At lunchtime on Sunday, the government held an emergency meeting to discuss what measures are needed.
Grindavik is located about four miles southwest of Reykjavik, and close to the Svartsengi geothermal plant, the main supplier of electricity and water to 30,000 inhabitants on the Reykjanes Peninsula.
Iceland, and Reykjanes in particular, lies directly over the “Mid-Atlantic Ridge” where the Eurasian and North American continental plates meet. This means that volcanic eruptions are very common. But most of the time they are so discreet, or happen so remotely, that they do not pose any major acute danger.
Reykjanes in particular has suffered three eruptions in as many years: in March 2021, August 2022 and July this year.