A new crack spewing red lava and steam on an Icelandic volcano has prompted authorities to evacuate hundreds of tourists who had come to marvel at the spectacle not far from the island’s capital.
The 500 m long gap was discovered by a sightseeing helicopter on Monday.
It is located about a kilometer from the mouth of the volcano on Mount Fagradalsfjall in the Wallachadalir Valley, where the dormant volcano flared up on March 19th after almost 800 years.
Following the new outbreak, the Icelandic Emergency Management Department urged hikers and tourists to leave the area immediately.
Describing the order as a precaution, it said that because the crack was removed from the trails, there was no imminent threat to life.
“We had two new rifts that opened right where people went […] We just cleared the area to find out what happened, “said Sigurjon Veigar, member of the search and rescue team.
The site of the outbreak has become a new tourist magnet in southwest Iceland, attracting hundreds of people to take photos and observe the phenomenon up close.
While volcanic activity is common in the “Land of Fire and Ice,” with at least one eruption on average every five years, it typically occurs in more inaccessible parts of the country.
This time the eruption is only 40 km from Iceland’s capital Reykjavik. The site is easy to reach after a six-kilometer hike from the Grindavik fishing port.
According to the Icelandic Tourist Board, around 30,000 people have visited the area since the volcanic eruption began, despite the coronavirus restrictions.
The new crack in the mountain poses no threat or potential impact on traffic at nearby Keflavik Airport, the Icelandic Meteorological Bureau said.
Geophysicist Magnus Gudmundsson said the second phase of the eruption likely started as the volcanic eruption flow may move north from its original location.
“We’re seeing less lava now from the two original craters. This could be the start of the second stage,” he told the Associated Press.