After lying dormant for 6,000 years, the Fagradalsfjall volcano on Iceland's Reykjanes Peninsula suddenly came to life in 2021. The eruption lasted six months. But it was considered minor, and posed no risk to nearby residents. However, the volcano's most recent outbursts are threatening the survival of Grindavík. The small fishing village of 3,800 residents is located about 6 miles (9.9 km) from the volcano.
The first eruption occurred on December 19, 2023. The lava initially seemed to be heading towards Grindavík. But fortunately, it changed its course. Once the risk subsided, the town's residents, who had been evacuated in November, were allowed to return home.
But the worst was yet to come. On January 14, 2024, the volcano erupted again. This time, the lava emerged from two fissures that opened up just 2.5 miles (4 km) north of Grindavík. The flowing magma rapidly breached the barriers of earth and rocks set up to protect the small town and devoured several homes. The residents had once again been safely evacuated. However, this time, there is no indication of when or if they can return.
That is because while the eruptions have stopped, the land around the area is rising. This indicates that magma continues to gather under the surface. Experts believe it could emerge through new fissures with very little notice. Also, the cracks from the January eruption have made the ground beneath Grindavík unstable. Officials are concerned that it may give way and swallow the tiny town.
"The risk associated with cracks is still assessed as very high. It is the hazard that is now called 'crack collapse' and describes a hazard that may exist where cracks are hidden beneath an unstable surface that may give way," the Icelandic Met Office (IMO) said in a statement.
On January 24, 2024, Iceland's officials announced they were working on long-term measures to help Grindavík residents. This includes options like buying homes damaged by the volcano or helping them with mortgage payments. Financial assistance will also be given to those wishing to relocate to other parts of the country.
Resources: Livescience.com, theguardian.com, newsweek.com