Iceland began admitting people to the site of a volcanic eruption after most noxious gases dissipated.
Some 24 hours after magma flows started in the uninhabited area on the Reykjanes Peninsula, the eruption had quieted enough to allow crowds near the site, according to the Civil Protection Services. The fissure is near the spot where previous eruptions happened in 2021 and 2022, for the first time in about 800 years in that area.
People started flocking to the site when access was opened at 3 p.m. local time on Tuesday, with more visitors still expected, according to spokeswoman Hjordis Gudmundsdottir at the Civil Protection Services.
“The intensity of the eruption by Litli-Hrutur mountain on Reykjanes has decreased dramatically,” the Met Office said on Tuesday, adding that no volcanic ash is being produced.
“Close to the eruption, the main hazards are incandescent, flowing lava and volcanic gases,” officials said, warning people that “new eruption fissures may open near the existing vents” with “very little notice” and that “dangerous and potentially fatal” gas levels may accumulate in low areas.
The island nation, which calls itself the land of fire and ice, has 30 volcanic systems and more than 600 hot springs. It is one of the most geologically active places on earth due to its position on the mid-Atlantic ridge where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet.
One of the most disruptive volcanic eruptions in Iceland’s recent history occurred in 2010, when Eyjafjallajokull in the southern part of the country erupted in an explosion that released a plume of ash so vast that it grounded air traffic across Europe for weeks, resulting in the cancellation of 100,000 flights and affecting over 10 million people.
According to geologists, the eruption that began on Monday around 19 miles (30 kilometers) from the country’s capital is effusive and likely to stay that way, meaning no ash plume is expected. Given the area is uninhabited, no infrastructure is at risk.
Tourism is one of Iceland’s main industries, and businesses use lava flows to attract travelers. Airlines tend to use captivating images of lava streams and local guides market hikes to active areas. In the past, some have even fried hot dogs and marshmallows on the magma.
Those wishing to see the sight would have to prepare for a hike of about 20 kilometers (12 miles) in rocky terrain without footpaths, in a country where weather conditions can change rapidly, officials said.
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