Volcano eruption in Iceland sparks travel fears, dangerous photo shoots

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A massive volcano that erupted near a global travel hub, Iceland’s Keflavik Airport, prompted close monitoring by officials and sparked fascination from people who ventured near the bright orange lava flows despite warnings.

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

The eruption, classified as a volcanic fissure, is occurring 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 Office said in a statement.

International travelers will remember the 2010 eruption of the country’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano, which spewed huge plumes of ash into the atmosphere, blocking air traffic and stranding millions of people.

“What we know so far is that the explosion does not pose any 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 dispersion of ash into the stratosphere. But people were warned to stay away because of the risk of noxious fumes and hot magma.

“The explosion follows intense seismic activity over the past few days,” the Foreign Ministry said. “It is considered to be 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 in Meradalir, about a mile north of Stori-Hrutur mountain, according to the Icelandic Meteorological Office.

The area has experienced “strong earthquakes” in the past few days before the eruption, he added, and warned of continued shaking, falling rocks and gas pollution. The same volcano erupted last year, he said, 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 about every four years.

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

The current volcanic response is being led by Iceland’s Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management together with 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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