A volcano has erupted in southwest Iceland following heavy seismic activity and a series of small earthquakes in the area. All inbound and outgoing flights have been briefly halted amid the eruption.
The Fagradalsfjall volcano, located around 20 miles (32km) south of the country’s capital of Reykjavik, erupted late on Friday night, according to the Icelandic Meteorological Office (ICO), which noted that flights to and from the neighboring Keflavik International Airport had been paused.
The first image of the eruption. Taken from the Coast Guard helicopter. The southern end of the lava flow is about 2.6 km from Suðurstrandarvegur. According to initial information, the fissure is about 200 m long. pic.twitter.com/BBqe8WicyS
— Icelandic Meteorological Office – IMO (@Vedurstofan) March 19, 2021
Photo I took tonight over the volcanic eruption at Reykjanes Iceland. We are monitoring the situation closely and as of now it is not considered a threat to surrounding towns. 🌋🇮🇸 #Icelandpic.twitter.com/6lTOG4xwjt
— Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir (@aslaugarna) March 20, 2021
The airport later announced that there was no total halt of air travel, and each airline had to decide for themselves “how they proceed based on the ash cloud forecast.”
A video captured from the Coast Guard helicopter and shared by the ICO showed a stream of glowing lava snaking down the mountain, with the office adding that the lava flow is only some 1.6 miles (2.6km) away from the town of Suðurstrandarvegur.
Photos of the eruption have circulated on social media, turning the night sky red.
Authorities from Keflavik were sent to assess the situation, the ICO said, while local media reported that a Coast Guard helicopter had also been dispatched to the area, bringing along two scientists to help determine next steps.
A local government spokesperson also announced that all main roads around the volcano had been closed “so that people do not get too close.”
Located on a peninsula in southwest Iceland, the volcano sits in a seismic hotspot which has seen some 40,000 small quakes since late February, putting the region on high alert for a volcanic episode. However, as noted by a local seismologist, activity in the area “died down almost completely” in the lead-up to Friday’s eruption.