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Iceland volcano erupts near town after weeks quake activity

Volcano erupts in Iceland, spewing lava and smoke, threatening a nearby town. Spectacular images show molten rock and rapid growth.

Late on Monday, a volcano in southwest Iceland erupted, spewing lava and smoke across a wide area after weeks of intense earthquake activity, according to the country's Meteorological Office. The eruption posed a threat to a nearby town, leading to the evacuation of nearly 4,000 inhabitants and the closure of the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa. The eruption began only a few kilometers from the town of Grindavik, and cracks in the ground stretched toward the village located about 40 km (25 miles) southwest of Iceland's capital city Reykjavik.

Despite the eruption, Reykjavik's nearby Keflavik International Airport remained open, though with numerous delays listed for both arrivals and departures. Images and livestreams of the eruption showed molten rock spewing spectacularly from fissures in the ground, their bright-yellow and orange colors set in sharp contrast against the dark night sky. The Met Office indicated that seismic activity and measurements from GPS devices suggested that the magma was moving southwest and that the eruption may continue in the direction of Grindavik. The crack in the earth's surface was around 3.5 km long and had grown rapidly, with 100 to 200 cubic meters of lava emerging per second, several times more than in previous eruptions in the area, according to the Met Office.

Local police raised their alert level, and the country's civil defense warned the public not to approach the area while emergency personnel assessed the situation. Iceland, located between the Eurasian and the North American tectonic plates, is a seismic and volcanic hotspot as the two plates move in opposite directions. Despite this, eruptions are still hard to predict. In mid-November, Grindavik inhabitants were evacuated from their homes in the middle of the night as the ground shook, roads cracked, and buildings suffered structural damage. Seismologists believed an eruption was imminent at the time, but the geological activity later eased.

The Reykjanes peninsula has seen several eruptions in recent years, with volcanic activity in the area continuing for six months in 2021, prompting thousands of Icelanders and tourists to visit the scene. In August 2022, a three-week eruption occurred in the same area, followed by another in July of this year. The latest eruption has once again drawn attention to the unpredictable nature of volcanic activity in Iceland.

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