Iceland has officially declared a ‘state of emergency’ as the southwest Reykjanes peninsula experiences nearly 4,000 small to medium intensity earthquakes, prompting concerns of potential volcanic eruptions. The largest tremor, measuring 5.2 in magnitude, has led authorities to take precautionary measures.
In an official statement, the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management of Iceland warned that the ongoing seismic activity might escalate, resulting in volcanic eruptions. The National police chief declared the state of emergency, emphasizing the need for civil defense due to the intense earthquake activity at Sundhnjukagigar, north of Grindavik.
“The earthquakes can become larger than those that have occurred, and this series of events could lead to an eruption,” stated the administration, highlighting the seriousness of the situation.
The Icelandic Met Office (IMO) has indicated that potential volcanic eruptions could occur “in several days.” The southwest Reykjanes peninsula experienced approximately 4,000 earthquakes, with the largest recorded tremor reaching a magnitude of 5.2, north of Grindavik.
Since late October, over 24,000 tremors have been recorded on the peninsula, with a dense swarm of nearly 800 quakes registered between midnight and 2 pm GMT on Friday. Due to the heightened risk, the renowned Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, a major tourist attraction, has been temporarily closed.
In response to the situation, the Department of Civil Protection of Iceland has dispatched patrol vessels to the earthquake site in Grindavik for security purposes. Emergency shelters and assistance centers are set to open in Grindavik and three other locations in southern Iceland, providing information and aid for those affected.
The Reykjanes peninsula has been a hub of volcanic activity, experiencing three eruptions since 2021 (March 2021, August 2022, and July 2023). Iceland, known for its dynamic geological landscape, boasts 33 active volcanic systems, the highest in Europe. The Reykjanes volcanic system, dormant for eight centuries before the March 2021 eruption, has now become a focal point of concern.
This recent state of emergency recalls the widespread disruptions caused by the volcanic eruption in Iceland’s southern area in April 2010, which led to the cancellation of nearly 100,000 flights worldwide and stranded over one crore people. The unfolding situation in Reykjanes emphasizes the unpredictable nature of Iceland’s volcanic landscape and the need for proactive measures to ensure the safety of its residents and visitors.