Harmful gases from an Icelandic volcano threaten to pollute the air of a nearby village and spread to the capital Reykjavik, the Icelandic Meteorological Institute (IMO) said on Friday.
The weather agency said it expects particularly heavy gas pollution in Vogar, a village of about 1,000 people about five kilometers northeast of Fagradalsfjall, the uninhabited valley where the volcano is located.
The pollution could reach Reykjavik, 40 kilometers from the volcano, by Saturday.
Sulfur dioxide levels could reach 2,600 micrograms per cubic metre, a level considered “unhealthy for sensitive people” by the Icelandic Environment Agency.
However, the IMO warned that their models were unsafe because the “flow of the outbreak is very erratic”.
The warning came after measurements showed that activity at the volcanic fissure, which is spewing glowing lava since Wednesday, had halved and the length of the fissure had shrunk to about 160 meters from an initial 360 meters (1,181 feet).
The initial lava flow of about 32 cubic meters per second, while stronger than a previous eruption in the same area last year, had slowed to about 18 cubic meters per second by the second day, according to an assessment released late Thursday.
“This behavior is very similar to what is usually seen in eruptions in the country — the eruption is strong at first and then dies down,” the Institute of Geosciences said in a statement.
The lava field from the eruption covered 144,000 square meters on Thursday.
“The (lava) flow is strongest in the middle (of the fissure) and there are indications that it could be expanding northwards,” authorities warned.
The pressure in the tunnel feeding the eruption is unbalanced, which geophysics says could lead to a new eruption in a new location.
“New fissures may open in the immediate vicinity of the eruption site without notice,” the IMO said.
Visitors flocked to the eruption in record numbers to admire the lava flow.
More than 4,200 people walked the 14-kilometer round-trip journey to the site on the Reykjanes Peninsula in south-west Iceland, about two hours from the nearest car park, on Thursday, according to authorities.
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