State of emergency in Iceland amid 4,000 earthquakes and volcanic fears
Iceland has announced a state of emergency in response to a significant seismic event on the southwest Reykjanes peninsula, where nearly 4,000 earthquakes, ranging from small to medium intensity, have been recorded. The largest of these quakes measured 5.2 in magnitude. This seismic activity raises concerns about potential volcanic eruptions, a situation that the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management of Iceland is closely monitoring.
The National Police Chief has issued a formal declaration of emergency for civil defense due to this heightened earthquake activity at Sundhnjukagigar, located north of Grindavik. The Icelandic Met Office (IMO) reports that the Reykjanes peninsula experienced approximately 800 earthquakes between midnight and 2 pm GMT on Friday alone, part of a larger pattern of 24,000 tremors recorded since late October.
This surge in seismic activity has prompted precautionary measures, including the temporary closure of the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, a major tourist attraction in Iceland. The Department of Civil Protection has deployed patrol vessels to Grindavik for safety reasons, and emergency shelters and help centers are being established in the region to assist residents and visitors.
Historically, Iceland, home to 33 active volcanic systems – the highest number in Europe—has experienced significant volcanic activity. Notably, the Reykjanes peninsula witnessed three eruptions since 2021, with the most recent one occurring in July 2023. Prior to the 2021 eruption near Mount Fagradalsfjall, this volcanic system had been dormant for eight centuries. Reflecting on the impact of volcanic eruptions in Iceland, the massive eruption in April 2010 in the country’s southern area led to the cancellation of nearly 100,000 flights worldwide, stranding over ten million people.