Uncertainty Surrounds Volcanic Eruption in Iceland

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Uncertainty Surrounds Volcanic Eruption in Iceland

It is uncertain how the volcanic eruption in south Iceland will develop and the Civil Protection Department still estimates the circumstances as “risky”—if the eruption moves underneath the Eyjafjallajökull icecap there could be flooding.

Eyjafjallajökull towers over the farm Thorvaldseyri. Its inhabitants were not allowed to sleep at home last night. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.

The eruption is under constant observation by the Icelandic Meteorological Office and the coordination center in Skógarhlíd in Reykjavík remains active, Morgunbladid reports.

Geophysicist Páll Einarsson has pointed out that there is a connection between the volcano in Eyjafjallajökull and the neighboring volcano Katla underneath the Mýrdalsjökull icecap. The current eruption could trigger a larger eruption in Katla.

“The course of events could develop in various directions and therefore it is important to pay close attention to everything,” Einarsson said.

A large area was evacuated after the eruption began around 11:30 pm on Saturday evening and almost 500 people had to leave their homes for the night. The evacuation went smoothly and was completed in approximately two hours.

Yesterday, everyone except for inhabitants of 14 farms closest to the eruption zone were allowed to return to their homes.

The eruption caused delays to both international and domestic flights and the travel plans of around 4,000 passengers were disrupted as a consequence. Airlines cannot be held responsible for delays in case of natural disasters.

Flights resumed yesterday afternoon but airplanes were required to fly higher than 5,000 feet above the eruption zone.

There are volcanic eruptions in Iceland every three years on average. The fiercest eruption that has occurred in Iceland in historic times is the 1783-1758 eruption in Lakagígar.

Approximately 80 percent of all sheep and 50 percent of horses and cattle died due to fluorine poisoning and at least every fifth Icelander, around 10,000 people, died from hunger.

Ash was carried to the European mainland and other continents—thousands died from poisoning in the British Isles.

The climate cooled which caused famine in many countries, including France. So the Lakagígar eruption is believed to have helped fuel the French Revolution in 1789.

Former reporter at RÚV Ómar Ragnarsson, who has covered and photographed 21 eruptions in his career, including the current eruption in Eyjafjallajökull, describes it as a “small and shy fire column dance.”

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