Volcano erupts near Iceland’s capital at seismic hotspot

COPENHAGEN, Aug. 3 (Reuters) – A volcano has erupted on a mountain near the Icelandic capital Reykjavik after days of increasing earthquakes in the area, the Icelandic Meteorological Bureau (IMO) said Wednesday.

Footage and live streams from local news channels MBL and RUV showed lava and smoke spewing from a fissure in the ground on the side of Fagradalsfjall mountain, where a six-month eruption occurred last year.

Tourists and residents should avoid the area because of toxic gases, although there was no immediate risk of damage to critical infrastructure, the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management said in a statement.

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A “code red” was issued to ban aircraft from flying over the site, although helicopters were sent to investigate the situation, the IMO told Reuters.

If the outbreak was confirmed to be similar to the cracks seen last year, the aviation alert would likely be lowered to orange, indicating less danger, a spokesman for the agency said.

“Currently there have been no disruptions to flights to and from Iceland and international flight corridors remain open,” the country’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

The Reykjanes Peninsula is a volcanic and seismic hotspot, and the outbreak occurred just 25 km (15 miles) from Reykjavik and 15 km from the country’s international airport.

Last March, lava fountains spectacularly erupted in the area from a fissure 500 to 750 meters long, which continued until September, drawing thousands of Icelanders and tourists to the scene.

Unlike the 2010 eruption of the ice-capped Eyjafjallajokull volcano, which halted some 100,000 flights and forced hundreds of Icelanders out of their homes, this eruption isn’t expected to spew much ash or smoke into the atmosphere.

Located between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, one of the largest in the world, Iceland experiences regular earthquakes and has high volcanic activity because the two plates move in opposite directions.

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Reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard and Terje Solsvik; adaptation by Toby Chopra and Lisa Shumaker

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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