“Take the children’s Christmas presents”: Icelandic townspeople threatened by volcano collect some items from their homes

Decorations, Christmas presents or sheep: Residents of Grindavik, an Icelandic town threatened by an erupting volcano, returned home for a few minutes on Monday to carry their own belongings.

Torn road, cracked buildings: The movement of magma beneath the Earth’s crust has damaged roads and buildings in the town of 4,000 people, which is located 40 km southwest of Reykjavík and was evacuated early Saturday, an AFP journalist noted.

This movement of magma has caused hundreds of earthquakes in recent days, possibly a precursor to a volcanic eruption.

A few minutes at home

After hours of waiting in their cars, Grindavik residents were able to get to their homes for a few minutes to collect their belongings, in the presence of numerous police officers and the Icelandic Civil Defense.

Their car is piled high with furniture, decorations, but also pets and even a sheep.

I emptied the house as much as possible and grabbed the essentials. Something for kids, Christmas gift“, 34-year-old Johannes Dai Johannesen explains to AFP after returning from Grindavik.

Many roads are dilapidated. It’s like a maze you have to navigate. But yes, we can get past that and go home“, he adds.

Elsewhere in Grindavik, the manager of a fish wholesaler arrived to empty refrigerators containing several hundred thousand euros worth of goods, the website of Icelandic newspaper Vísir reported.

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Rare discharge

Experts note that even for a volcanic region like Iceland, the evacuation of a city is a rare event.

The last evacuation of a significant population in Iceland took place 50 years ago, during the 1973 eruption on the island of Heimme, off the south coast of Iceland.“, explains Lancaster University volcanologist Dave McGarvey.

Displaced residents of Grindavik are worried because the future of their town is so uncertain.“, he adds.

Since 2021, three eruptions have occurred on the peninsula in March 2021, August 2022 and July 2023, all far from infrastructure or populated areas.

Volcanologists estimate that this new cycle of increased activity could last decades or even centuries.

Located in the North Atlantic, Iceland lies on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a sea floor rift that separates the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates.

In April 2010, the eruption of another Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, in the south of the island caused the cancellation of around 100,000 flights and stranded more than 10 million passengers.

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