A volcano in southwestern Iceland on the Reykjanes peninsula erupted on Friday night, following thousands of smaller tremors in the area in recent weeks, the country’s meteorological office said.
The peninsula, located south-west of the capital Reykjavik, is a seismic hotspot, recording at least 40,000 earthquakes in recent weeks.
“Volcanic eruption has begun in Fagradalsfjall,” the Icelandic Meteorological Office said in a tweet, referring to a mountain located about 30 kilometres south-west of the capital on the way to the island’s main airport.
Pictures on local media websites showed a night sky glowing bright red.
“I can see the glowing red sky from my window,” said Rannveig Gudmundsdottir, a resident in the town of Grindavik, only 8km from the eruption. “Everyone here is getting into their cars to drive up there,” she said.
All inbound and outgoing air traffic from Keflavik International Airport had been halted, the office told Reuters.
A helicopter with scientific personnel had been scrambled to assess the extent of the eruption, the office said.
The country had only the day before opened its borders to vaccinated foreigners, a move that had made the north Atlantic island one of the first nations in the world to reopen to tourists after the latest coronavirus curbs.
The eruption posed no immediate danger to people in Grindavik or to critical infrastructure, the IMO said.
“I think we couldn’t hope for anything better than that,” said its volcanic hazards coordinator Sara Barsotti.
Unlike the eruption in 2010 of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, which halted approximately 900,000 flights and forced hundreds of Icelanders from their homes, this eruption is not expected to spew much ash or smoke into the atmosphere, the IMO said.