Iceland’s volcano eruption sparks travel fears and risky photo ops

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A massive volcano erupting near a global travel hub, Iceland’s Keflavik Airport, has led to close scrutiny by authorities and fascinated people who ventured near the bright orange lava flows despite the warnings.

The Fagradalsfjall volcano in southwest Iceland erupted at 1:18 p.m. local time on Wednesday, according to the Icelandic Meteorological Office, which urged people to stay away from the sparsely populated area of ​​the Reykjanes peninsula – although some still came close to take pictures with their children and fly drones.

The eruption, classified as a volcanic fissure, occurs about 10 miles from Keflavik International Airport and about 20 miles from the country’s capital, Reykjavik. As of Thursday morning, the airport – which has flights from Seattle, London and Frankfurt – remained open and operational.

“Currently, there have been no disruptions to flights to and from Iceland and international flight corridors remain open,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

International travelers will remember the 2010 eruption of the country’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano, which spewed huge clouds of ash into the atmosphere, bringing air traffic to a standstill and leaving millions stranded.

“What we know so far is that the eruption poses no risk to populated areas or critical infrastructure,” Icelandic Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir said in a statement. “We will of course continue to monitor the situation closely.”

A volcanic fissure does not usually result in large explosions or significant dispersal of ash into the stratosphere. But people have been warned to stay away due to the risk of noxious fumes and hot magma.

“The eruption follows intense seismic activity over the past few days,” the Foreign Ministry said. “It is considered relatively small and due to its location there is a low threat to populated areas or critical infrastructure”

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The exact location of the eruption is at Meradalir, about a mile north of Mount Stori-Hrutur, according to the Icelandic Meteorological Office.

The region has experienced “strong earthquakes” in recent days, he added, warning of tremors, rockfalls and gas pollution. The same volcano also erupted last year, he added, and lasted about six months.

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Volcanoes are a fact of life in Iceland, a country that sits atop the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, caused by the separation of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. On average, the country experiences a volcanic event approximately every four years.

However, the same geological activity is also responsible for some of the country’s most spectacular natural features, such as black sand beaches and geothermal lagoons, which attract millions of foreign tourists.

The current volcanic response is being led by the Icelandic Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management alongside the Meteorological Office and the University of Iceland. Scientists are also in the area with Coast Guard helicopters to assess the situation, the government said.

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