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Volcano erupts near Iceland's capital, but scientists aren't worried

Saturday, March 20th 2021, 8:30 pm - The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management urged residents to stay calm and warned against approaching the volcano and obstructing emergency services on site.

Copenhagen (dpa) - The Fagradalsfjall volcano near the Icelandic capital Reykjavik started erupting late Friday, turning the night sky over the city a crimson red.

According to initial information, the fissure is about 200 meters long, the Icelandic Meteorological Office said.

Images showed small fountains of lava splashing up. The glowing stream of liquid rock reached a size of about 1 square kilometre, the authority said. Only slight seismological fluctuations were measured.

The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management urged residents to stay calm and warned against approaching the volcano and obstructing emergency services on site.

Despite the dramatic pictures the authorities said the eruption was small and it did not appear to pose a danger to people or the nearby settlement of Grindavik.

"We are monitoring the situation closely and as of now it is not considered a threat to surrounding towns. We ask people to keep away from the immediate area and stay safe," Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir tweeted.

Iceland volcano/Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management in Iceland/dpa An aerial from a coast guard helicopter shows the eruption at Fagradalsfjall volcano near the Icelandic capital Reykjavik. The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management urged residents to stay calm and warned against approaching the volcano. Photo: Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management in Iceland/dpa

The meteorological office Vedurstofa said that it was unlikely that the lava flow would cause much damage.

There were no indications of any significant obstructions to air traffic. The state airport operator Isavia waived a general flight ban and only ordered a drone exclusion zone within 5 kilometres of the volcano.

Keflavik, the country's most important airport for international flights, merely noted increased ash levels in the air.

The civil protection agency told people in the catchment area not to leave their houses due to volcanic gas plumes and urged people to keep windows shut.

Geophysicist Magnus Tumi Gudmunddson told the RUV broadcaster that so far there was a low level of toxic gases emitted.

The Fagradalsfjall volcano is about 30 kilometres away from Reykjavik on the south-western tip of Iceland, where the last eruption was recorded more than 700 years ago.

It is not a typical eruption of a single volcano, rather the lava comes from a subterranean volcano system called Krysuvik. Scientists had expected an eruption in the area for a while following thousands of earthquakes in the past weeks.

When the eruption would be over was impossible to say, Gudmunddson said. "It could be over tonight or in a month."

The singer Bjork wrote on Instagram that she was "sooo excited" by the eruption.

"We still got it!!! Sense of relief when nature expresses herself!!!" she said.

Iceland has about 30 major volcanoes. An eruption of a volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier disrupted air travel for several weeks in 2010.

Reporting by: Marc Kalpidis in Berlin, Steffen Trumpf in Copenhagen. Editing by: Ivonne Marschall

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