Iceland has declared a state of emergency after a series of earthquakes near Fagradalsfjall volcano raised fears of eruption.
The Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) speaks of the possibility that large amounts of magma is spreading underground and could surface in the southwestern town of Grindavík.
In response, authorities have ordered thousands living in Grindavík to evacuate as a precaution.
Thousands of tremors have been recorded around the nearby Fagradalsfjall volcano in recent weeks. The increased seismic activity in the area prompted more than 20,000 tremors have been recorded in southwest Iceland since late October.
The tremors have been concentrated in the Reykjanes Peninsula. No volcanic activity had been recorded there for 800 years until there was an eruption in 2021.
In recent days, the increased seismic activity in the area prompted the closure of the nearby world-famous Blue Lagoon thermal pool landmark.
Measurements of seismicity and ground deformation were conducted between scientists at the Icelandic Meteorological Office, the University of Iceland, and the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management.
The assessment was that the ongoing dike intrusion represents a serious volcanic hazard and that a submarine eruption could be possible in a matter of days. A hazard area has been defined just outside of Grindavik, where magma could emerge.
Iceland fears volcano eruption after 800 Earthquakes in 14 Hours
There have been 800 earthquakes in 14 hours in the area, increasing the likelihood of a Fagradalsfjall volcanic eruption.
According to IMO, there is magma extended beneath the nearby town of Grindavik but it is not possible to determine exactly whether or where it could emerge.
In a statement on Friday, IMO suggested people must leave Grindavik saying that it is not an “emergency evacuation” because there is “a good amount of time to react.”
“There is no immediate danger imminent, the evacuation is primarily preventive with the safety of all Grindavík residents as the principal aim,” it added.
All roads into the town of around 4,000 residents are closed other than for emergencies, to ensure traffic can get in and out.
It added that magma has likely extended beneath the town and it was “not possible to determine exactly” whether or where it could emerge.
“The amount of magma involved is significantly more than what was observed in the largest magma intrusions associated with the eruptions at Fagradalsfjall,” the IMO said.
There are around 30 active volcanic sites in Iceland, making it one of the most geographically active regions in the world.
The Fagradalsfjall volcano was dormant for 800 years until eruptions occurred in 2021, 2022 and 2023.