File photo of the eruption of a volcano in Iceland. EFE-EPA/FILE/ANTON BRINK

Iceland on edge as hundreds of earthquakes raise volcanic eruption threat

Berlin, Nov 15 (EFE).- Hundreds of earthquakes have rattled Iceland since midnight, increasing the likelihood of a volcanic eruption, officials said on Wednesday.

According to public broadcaster RUV, 300 earthquakes, with magnitudes less than three, have been recorded in and around the magma intrusion at Grindavík in southwest Iceland overnight.

The broadcaster said the probability of an eruption remained high, but “it is not certain when and where it may happen.”

Quoting an Icelandic meteorological official, RUV said it “is likely that the magma under Grindavík has come very close to the surface, possibly around 500 meters.”

Increased levels of sulfur dioxide were measured in the atmosphere, which is evidence of magma’s closeness to the surface, RUV reported.

“There is great uncertainty about where an eruption will occur and where the lava might flow,” said geophysicist Freysteinn Sigmundsson.

Iceland declared a state of emergency on Nov. 10 following a series of earthquakes and volcanic activity near Grindavik, prompting the evacuation of thousands of people from the city in anticipation of a potential eruption.

Officials have restricted access to certain areas of the city, allowing a limited number of residents to retrieve their belongings before leaving their neighborhoods.

The fear that molten rock could potentially hit the coastal Grindavik town and the Svartsengi power plant has been mounting, which prompted the government around the geothermal power station to protect it from lava flows.

The power station is just over six kilometers from Grindavik.

Sigmundsson told RUV that building defenses in Reykjanes was “absolutely worth” it to protect the power station.

“The natural disaster thus far is the biggest since the eruption in the Westman Islands 50 years ago,” Sigmundsson said.

Island residents had to flee their homes when an eruption began in 1973. Many of them moved to Grindavík.

Kjartan Friðrik Adólfsson was eight when he moved with his family during the 1973 eruption.

Over the weekend, he had to flee his home for the second time in his life due to the risk of another volcanic eruption. EFE