A new volcanic eruption has unleashed chaos near the Icelandic fishing port of Grindavik, resulting in houses being engulfed in flames shortly after villagers were safely evacuated, as confirmed by authorities on Sunday.
This marks the fifth volcanic eruption to plague the North Atlantic nation within a span of less than three years, with the most recent occurrence happening on December 18 in the same region, southwest of the capital Reykjavik.
The calamity unfolded when the first eruption commenced at 8:00 am on Sunday, with a subsequent crack emerging near the town’s edge by midday, leading to the engulfment of homes by flowing lava. Live images broadcasted by public television RUV depicted at least two houses in flames, the fire quickly spreading from one residence to another, evoking an emotional response from the local community. Sveinn Ari Gudjonsson, a resident, expressed the tragic impact, stating, “In a little village like this one, we’re like a family.”
President Gudni Johannesson, set to address the nation at 8:00 pm, reassured that “no lives are in danger,” but acknowledged potential threats to infrastructure. The evacuation of Grindavik’s 4,000-strong population had previously occurred on November 11 due to seismic activity, and residents were allowed to return after the eruption on December 18, though only a few opted to do so.
Concerns escalate as authorities monitor the nearby Svartsengi geothermal plant, crucial for supplying electricity and water to the Reykjanes peninsula. The region, which hadn’t witnessed an eruption for eight centuries until March 2021, has experienced a series of eruptions since August 2022, leading experts to anticipate a new era of volcanic activity. The relentless seismic activity poses ongoing challenges, with authorities remaining vigilant amid the unpredictable nature of the situation in this region, home to 33 active volcano systems — the highest number in Europe.