Three tourists trekked through rugged terrain in Iceland on Wednesday night to the site of the eruption, which drew awe-inspiring onlookers to watch the hot lava geyser it spewed, a spokesman for Iceland’s civil protection agency said.
Injuries, including a broken ankle, were not serious, spokesman Hjordis Gudmundsdottir said in an interview on Thursday, but they underscored the risks tourists face if they try to hike to lava from the Fagradalsfjall volcano in southwest Iceland.
“We tell people that even though we know it’s spectacular and there’s nothing more spectacular, we have to be careful and we have to be ready before we go,” Ms Gudmundsdottir said.
The hike to and from the area takes about five hours, she said, and may involve traversing lava that is still fragile and hot below the surface since last year’s eruption. Officials also warned of sudden gas pollution near the eruption site.
“We’re trying to tell people it’s not just a walk in the park,” Ms Gudmundsdottir said. “People have to be careful, wear good clothes and good shoes. We are trying to tell this to Icelanders and our foreign friends.”
Ms Gudmundsdottir said the tourist, who suffered a broken ankle, was taken to hospital by helicopter. The other two left the volcano with the help of a vehicle, she said.
Ms Gudmundsdottir said she expected more arrivals in the coming days, especially after dark, when fiery lava contrasted with Iceland’s night sky.
“We don’t know how many people have been there, but we know there are many, and we know there will be more in the days to come,” she said. “We knew we couldn’t say, ‘Stay away.’ We didn’t lock down this place.”
The Icelandic government said on Wednesday that lava started flowing from a ground fissure around Fagradalsfjall, near the town of Grindavik on the Reykjanes peninsula. a statementThe volcanic eruption followed intense seismic activity over the past few days, the statement said.
The government said the eruption was considered “relatively minor” and the risk to populated areas and critical infrastructure was low. Fissure eruptions typically do not result in a big bang or a large amount of volcanic ash flying into the stratosphere, the statement said.
But the government said it was still advising people not to visit the site.Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management in a statement Thursday.
It warned that when winds weakened, toxic gases could build up, new lava fountains could open without warning, and that the accumulated lava would quickly flow across the ground.
The government said the crack was about 9 miles from Keflavik Airport, a major transport hub, and about 16 miles from downtown Reykjavik.
“Since a series of earthquakes hit last weekend, we have been expecting a volcanic eruption somewhere in the region,” Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir said in a statement. We will of course continue to monitor the situation closely, and now we are also benefiting from the experience of last year’s eruption.”
Iceland has a long history of volcanic activity, with more than 30 active volcanoes. The country straddles two tectonic plates, separated by an undersea mountain range oozing molten hot rock or magma. Earthquakes occur when magma passes through plates.
Keflavik Airport said on its website on Thursday that there were no disruptions to arriving or departing flights.
Icelandair also tried to reassure passengers that its flights had not been disrupted by promoting the eruption on Facebook, writing on Wednesday: “Summers are getting hotter in Iceland!” It included a link to live eruption site.