Curious onlookers made their way to the site of a volcanic eruption near Iceland’s capital Reykjavik on Thursday to marvel at the bubbling lava, a day after the rupture appeared in an uninhabited valley.
The eruption occurred about 40 kilometers from Reykjavik near Mount Fagradalsfjall volcano in southwest Iceland, which spewed magma for six months between March and September 2021.
While last year’s eruption was easily accessible on foot and drew more than 435,000 tourists, access to the new eruption is more difficult and requires a strenuous 90-minute hilly hike from the nearest parking lot.
Despite this, more than 1,830 people visited the site on the first day of the outbreak, according to the Iceland Tourism Association, and more visitors were seen making their way to the scene early Thursday.
The fissure was estimated to be about 360 meters (1,181 feet) long, the Icelandic Meteorological Office said Thursday, with lava fountains about 10-15 meters high.
The average lava flow in the first few hours was estimated at 32 cubic meters per second, according to measurements taken by scientists at the Institute of Geosciences on Wednesday at 1705 GMT – 3.5 hours after the eruption began.
That’s about four to five times more than when last year’s outbreak began.
“The current outbreak is therefore much stronger,” the institute wrote in a Facebook post.
The lava covered an area of about 74,000 square meters, it said.
For comparison, last year’s six-month eruption poured 150 million cubic meters of lava over an area of 4.85 square kilometers.
Officials had initially urged people not to visit the site until a risk assessment had been conducted.
But on Thursday, the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management said only young children should not go to the eruption site.
Gases from a volcanic eruption – particularly sulfur dioxide – can be thrown up in close proximity, be harmful and even fatal.
Gas pollution can also be carried by the wind.
Fagradalsfjall Mountain is part of the Krysuvik volcanic system on the Reykjanes Peninsula in southwest Iceland.
Known as the land of fire and ice, Iceland has 32 volcanic systems that are currently considered active, the highest number in Europe. The country has had an outbreak every five years on average.
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