Iceland Declares State of Emergency Amid Volcanic Threat

Iceland has officially entered a state of emergency as concerns over a potential volcanic eruption escalate. The authorities have issued evacuation orders for the southwestern town of Grindavík, prompting thousands to leave as a precautionary measure. The Icelandic Met Office (IMO) expressed unease about substantial amounts of magma—molten rock—spreading underground and the possibility of it surfacing in the area.

The heightened seismic activity has been centered around the Fagradalsfjall volcano on Iceland's Reykjanes Peninsula, which had remained dormant for 800 years before a 2021 eruption. The recent surge in tremors led to the closure of the iconic Blue Lagoon landmark on Thursday. Over 20,000 tremors have been recorded in southwest Iceland since late October.

The Icelandic Civil Protection Agency initiated the evacuation of Grindavík as the IMO could not rule out the emergence of a magma tunnel that might reach the town. While emphasizing that it's not an "emergency evacuation," the agency urged residents to stay calm, assuring that there's sufficient time to respond.

Roads leading into Grindavík, home to around 4,000 people, are closed except for emergencies to facilitate traffic management. The IMO reported significant changes in seismic activity, with tremors progressing towards Grindavík throughout the day. The agency highlighted the uncertainty about the exact location and emergence of magma beneath the town, indicating that the volume involved exceeds previous observations associated with eruptions in the region.

Iceland, renowned for its geological activity, boasts around 30 active volcanic sites. Volcanic eruptions occur when lighter magma rises to the earth's surface from deep below, creating a potential threat to surrounding areas. The Fagradalsfjall area experienced eruptions in 2021, 2022, and 2023 after eight centuries of dormancy, attracting tourists to witness the birth of the "world's newest baby volcano" named Litli-Hrutur, or Little Ram.

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