Iceland Volcano Erupts Again; No Flight Disruptions

COPENHAGEN — A volcano in Iceland on Saturday erupted for the fourth time since December, the country’s meteorological office said, spewing bright orange lava into the air in sharp contrast against the dark night sky.

Livestreams from the area showed fountains of molten rock soaring from fissures in the ground after authorities had warned for weeks that an eruption was imminent on the Reykjanes peninsula just south of Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik.

“Warning: An eruption began in Reykjanes,” the Icelandic Meteorological Office said on its website, while Reykjavik’s Keflavik Airport’s website showed it remained open both for departures and arrivals.

Icelandic police said they had declared a state of emergency for the area, and the Civil Defense authority dispatched a helicopter to survey the extent of the eruption.

The nearby Blue Lagoon luxury geothermal spa immediately shut its doors, as it did during previous eruptions.

“We have evacuated and temporarily closed all our operational units,” the operator said on its website.

“We will remain closed through Sunday, March 17. Further updates and information will be provided here as they become available,” it added.

Iceland, which is roughly the size of the U.S. state of Kentucky, boasts more than 30 active volcanoes, making the north European island a prime destination for volcano tourism, a niche segment that attracts thousands of thrill seekers.

In 2010, ash clouds from eruptions at the Eyafjallajokull volcano in the south of Iceland spread over large parts of Europe, grounding about 100,000 flights and forcing hundreds of Icelanders to evacuate their homes.

Volcanic outbreaks in the Reykjanes peninsula are so-called fissure eruptions, which do not usually cause large explosions or significant dispersal of ash into the stratosphere.

However, scientists fear they could continue for decades, and Icelandic authorities have started building dikes to divert hot lava flows away from homes and critical infrastructure.

The volcano last erupted in early February, cutting off district heating to more than 20,000 people as lava flows destroyed roads and pipelines, while an outbreak in January burned to the ground several houses in a fishing town.

Located between the Eurasian and the North American tectonic plates, among the largest on the planet, Iceland is a seismic and volcanic hot spot as the two move in opposite directions.

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