Major volcanic eruption looms: Iceland evacuates residents of Grindavik following magma-induced seismic activity
By Olivia Cook // Nov 29, 2023

Icelandic authorities are sounding the alarm of a possible major volcanic eruption in the country of under 400,000 people. A state of emergency has already been declared, and nearly 4,000 people in the small town of Grindavik have been evacuated following magma-induced seismic activity in the area.

Nearly 100 earthquakes have been shaking the south of Iceland since Tuesday, Nov. 28, some of which have created vast chasms through the streets of Grindavik and caused buildings to buckle under the pressure. (Related: Study: Yellowstone supervolcano holds TWICE the magma previously believed.)

The earthquakes destroyed Grindavik's only old people's home and made many of the roads leading to the town impassable due to serious damage.

Much of the damage was said to have been caused by a subterranean corridor of magma or semi-molten rock, which had spread underneath the town itself from a point originating roughly 15 kilometers (9.3 miles). The magma had caused the land above it to shift, creating huge cracks, craters and sinkholes.

Two weeks before, around 900 earthquakes hit southern Iceland, with tens of thousands of tremors reported in the Reykjanes region in the country's southeast in recent weeks. The Icelandic Meteorological Office continues to warn of the persistent likelihood of an imminent volcanic eruption.

Its forecaster said there were around 300 earthquakes on Sunday, Nov. 26 – with a "swarm" near the town, which lasted just over an hour before midnight, including an earthquake with a magnitude of 3, located three miles northeast of Grindavik.

After he evacuated to take refuge in Reykjavik, Grindavik resident Hans Vera told CBC News reporters, "You would never be steady. It was always shaking, so there was no way to get sleep.” He added that the tremors were “well beyond the seismic activity that Icelanders were used to. It's not only the people in Grindavik who are shocked about this situation; it's the whole of Iceland."

The small coastal town of Grindavik lies 50 kilometers (31.06 miles) southwest of Reykjavik on a volcanic hotspot called the Reykjavik Peninsula, an area that has been the site of spectacular lava fountains.

Iceland's "otherworldly" landscape

Upon his return to Grindavik on Tuesday, photographer Jeroen Van Nieuwenhove said it felt "eerie" to see a once busy town now totally deserted. His recent photographs showed the emptiness of Iceland’s "otherworldly landscape" – the exact opposite of his previous photographs that showed the volcanoes and breathtaking lava fountains that "people don’t get to see every day."

"Now it’s a very different side of these volcanoes. It's very difficult to see something destroy a community where I used to take hundreds of tourists, talk to the locals, dine in restaurants… It’s heartbreaking to see what has happened."

The Icelandic Met Office’s latest report said that while surrounding areas are still experiencing hundreds of earthquakes daily, "seismic activity has continued to decrease," and "the likelihood of an imminent eruption diminished as well."

However, Reykjavik-based Nordic Volcanological Center head Rikke Pederson warned that while there was a decrease in seismic activity, the probability of an eruption remains high. "Less seismic activity typically precedes an eruption, because you have come so close to the surface that you cannot build up a lot of tension to trigger large earthquakes," Pederson said.

Watch the following video about Iceland evacuating residents over the threat of volcanic eruption.

This video is from the Daily Videos channel on

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Sources include: 1 2

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