A volcano in Iceland is erupting for the third time since December, sending chunks of molten rock and jets of lava skyward, creating a perilous situation for residents and tourists.
The popular Blue Lagoon geothermal spa has been evacuated and thousands of residents are without heat and hot water after a channel of lava engulfed a supply pipeline along a three-kilometre fissure northeast of Mount Sýlingarfell.
Plumes of lava shot more than 50 metres into the air, witnessed by a Coast Guard helicopter flying over the peninsula early on Thursday morning.
The previous eruption, which started on Jan. 14, lasted around two days and threatened the outskirts of the Grindavik fishing town. Some 4,000 residents had to be evacuated. Several homes were set alight during that eruption.
Thursday’s eruption, however, took place away from Grindavik. Icelandic geophysicist Ari Trausti Gudmundsoon told Reuters that it was unlikely to pose a direct threat to the town.
“But it could pose some threat to the road to Grindavik, and it could pose some threat to the power plant and even to the Blue Lagoon,” he said.
Unlike the 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, which spewed huge clouds of ash into the atmosphere and grounded flights across Europe for days because of fear that ash could damage airplane engines, the most recent eruptions are so-called fissure eruptions and are unlikely to produce large clouds of ash.
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The Icelandic Meteorological Office says that while lava continues to spew from parts of the fissure and huge plumes steam are rising where the magma is mixing with groundwater, they have observed a decrease in the strength of the eruption over the course of Thursday.
— With files from Reuters and The Associated Press
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