Iceland: Government declares state of emergency as nearly 800 earthquakes strike nation within 14 hours

A state of emergency was declared in Iceland after nearly 800 quakes were reported within half a day, triggering fears of a volcanic eruption, media reports said.

Representational image of a volcano. Photo Courtesy: Unsplash

The Icelandic Met Office (IMO) said nearly 800 earthquakes were reported between midnight and 2 p.m. on Friday (November 10, 2023).

“A dense swarm of earthquakes began around 07:00 this morning in the same area, and nearly 800 quakes have been recorded since midnight, including 9 greater than magnitude 3,” IMO said in a statement.

As a precaution, authorities have directed the evacuation of thousands of people from Grindavík town.

In a statement, the Icelandic Met Office (IMO) said: “Significant changes have occurred in the seismic activity measured near Sundhnjúkagígar north of Grindavík and deformation observed in the Reykjanes Peninsula this afternoon. The seismic activity has moved south towards Grindavík.”

“Based on how the seismic activity has evolved since 6 PM today, along with results from GPS measurements, there is a likelihood that a magma intrusion has extended beneath Grindavík. In light of this outcome, the police chief in Suðurnes, in cooperation with the Civil Protection Authorities, has decided to evacuate Grindavík,” read the statement.

The IMO said an emergency level of civil protection is now in effect.

“At this stage, it is not possible to determine exactly whether and where magma might reach the surface. There are indications that a considerable amount of magma is moving in an area extending from Sundhnjúkagígum in the north towards Grindavík. The amount of magma involved is significantly more than what was observed in the largest magma intrusions associated with the eruptions at Fagradalsfjall. Further data is being collected to calculate models that provide a more accurate picture of the magma intrusion. It is currently not possible to say when this work will be completed,” the statement said.

With 30 active volcanic sites, the recent shakes have placed Iceland in a worrisome situation.

Due to the ongoing seismic activities, the Blue Lagoon thermal pool has been shut down.