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Iceland Volcano: Pollution Warning After Eruption

Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, may face gas pollution following the eruption of a volcano that began erupting late on Monday. This eruption, located on the Reykjanes peninsula in southwest Iceland, follows weeks of intense seismic activity, including earthquakes and tremors. The noxious fumes are expected to reach Reykjavik by Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning.

Last month, approximately 4,000 individuals were evacuated from Grindavik, a fishing town threatened by the lava flow. A resident living near Grindavik described the scenes on Monday night as “crazy” and “scary,” noting that the volcano was still active on Tuesday. The smell of smoke and ash has been detected as far as 30 kilometers from the eruption site, with occasional ground vibrations felt.

Iceland has been on alert for volcanic activity for several weeks, with increased earthquake activity around Reykjavik since late October. The eruption can be observed from Reykjavik, located approximately 42 kilometers northeast of Grindavik. Notably, in 2010, a volcanic eruption generated an ash plume that disrupted air travel in Europe for several days.

Although the Icelandic Met Office reported a decrease in the eruption’s power as of 12:30 GMT on Tuesday, it warned that volcanic gases could still reach Reykjavik. Iceland’s foreign minister, Bjarni Benediktsson, assured that there were no disruptions to flights to and from Iceland, and international flight corridors remained open. “The jets [of lava] are quite high, so it appears to be a powerful eruption at the beginning,” he said.

Images and videos shared on social media captured lava eruptions shortly after a swarm of earthquakes was detected. Authorities have cautioned people to stay away from the affected area. The volcanic crack measures approximately 3.5 kilometers in length, with lava flowing at a rate of 100 to 200 cubic meters per second, significantly more than recent eruptions on the Reykjanes peninsula.

Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir said defences recently constructed would have a positive effect and that her thoughts were with the local community.

President Gudni Johannesson said safeguarding lives was the main priority but that every effort would be made to protect structures too.

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