Fight to save Grindavík: Horrifying drone footage shows scorching lava from Iceland volcano eruption engulfing homes as it surrounds village – as locals reveal last-ditch effort to stem flow of magma

Horrifying drone footage shows scorching lava from Iceland’s volcanic eruption engulfing homes as it surrounds the fishing village of Grindavík.

The eruption began just before 8am local time on Sunday. Around midday, a second fissure over 3,000ft wide and growing split open.

The molten rock streamed towards homes in the northernmost tip of the village, which sits around 25 miles from county’s capital, Reykjavík.

It breached barriers of earth and rock meant to prevent the magma from reaching Grindavík, where several buildings were set ablaze.

‘According to the first images from the Coast Guard’s surveillance flight, a crack has opened on both sides of the defenses that have begun to be built north of Grindavík,’ the Icelandic Meteorological Office said in a statement.

Lava crept towards the fishing town of Grindavík Sunday, swallowing three houses

Homes in the small village were seen burning next to the ever-growing wash of molten lava

Homes in the small village were seen burning next to the ever-growing wash of molten lava

Lava explosions and billowing smoke were spotted near homes and buildings

Lava explosions and billowing smoke were spotted near homes and buildings

The eruption began just before 8am local time Sunday. Around midday, a second fissure several thousand feet wide split open

The eruption began just before 8am local time Sunday. Around midday, a second fissure several thousand feet wide split open

The January 14 eruption (pictured) began north of Grindavík, prompting an evacuation of nearly all 4,000 residents

The January 14 eruption (pictured) began north of Grindavík, prompting an evacuation of nearly all 4,000 residents

The lava from this morning's eruption was seen creeping towards homes in the northernmost part of the town

The lava from this morning’s eruption was seen creeping towards homes in the northernmost part of the town

The lava flows prompted an evacuation for the second time and rendered the fate of farm animals uncertain. 

Video taken from an Icelandic Coastguard helicopter shows huge pools of molten rock and a wall of flames rising into the night sky.

Víðir Reynisson, chief supervisor of the Office of the National Commissioner of the Police, told local media that ‘no one is going into Grindavíkuntil we are absolutely sure that it will be OK.’

Flights to and from the country were not affected as of Sunday, and Iceland Air confirmed that the operations of Keflavík Airport were not impacted.

But devastating lava flows razed at least three homes in Grindavík, according to local media, with the potential for more destruction looming ahead.

Lovísa Mjöll Guðmundsdóttir, a natural disaster expert at the Icelandic Meteorological Office, said: ‘It cannot be ruled out that more cracks will open.

‘The GPS data showed us that there is increased magma inflow into the tunnel and with that there is a possibility of more fissures opening up.’

Police chief Víðir Reynisson, citing the Icelandic Met Office, warned that ‘there is no end to magma inflow into the tunnel, and as a result we need to be prepared and focus our actions on the real danger, a large crack opening in Grindavík, major gas pollution from this and then the possible opening of new eruptions.’ 

Thick clouds of smoke billowed over the landscape during the eruption

Thick clouds of smoke billowed over the landscape during the eruption

Smoke rises following a volcanic eruption on the Reykjanes Peninsula

Smoke rises following a volcanic eruption on the Reykjanes Peninsula

Emergency personnel use diggers to build a protective wall to stop the flow of lava

Emergency personnel use diggers to build a protective wall to stop the flow of lava

Seismic activity intensified overnight and several thousand residents of Grindavík were evacuated, while 200 elected to stay behind despite the warnings

Seismic activity intensified overnight and several thousand residents of Grindavík were evacuated, while 200 elected to stay behind despite the warnings

Aerial images show flowing lava drawing near homes in the southwestern Icelandic town

Aerial images show flowing lava drawing near homes in the southwestern Icelandic town

The fishing village lost power at around 5am following a period of heightened seismic activity

The fishing village lost power at around 5am following a period of heightened seismic activity

Residents of Grindavík were evacuated around 3am local time as seismic activity continued to intensify.

The country’s national public-service broadcasting service reported that around 200 of the town’s 4,000 residents elected to stay, despite the warnings. 

The Public Safety Department of the National Police reported that 200 earthquakes were recorded overnight, with Grindavík losing power at around 5am.

But by Sunday night, eruption in the fissure had largely subsided.

‘It seems to us that it has almost stopped, the lava flow by these houses,’ said Böðvar Sveinsson, a natural disaster expert at the Icelandic Meteorological Office.

The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, one of Iceland’s biggest tourist attractions, shuttered after reopening just one week prior.

On Sunday, the spa extended its closure through January 16. However, its website noted that the eruption site was ‘a safe distance’ away.

Authorities urged locals to steer clear of the eruption site and stay out of Grindavík until they could fully evaluate the area

Authorities urged locals to steer clear of the eruption site and stay out of Grindavík until they could fully evaluate the area

Lovísa Mjöll Guðmundsdóttir, a natural disaster expert at the Icelandic Meteorological Office, cautioned against the possibility of more fissures opening

Lovísa Mjöll Guðmundsdóttir, a natural disaster expert at the Icelandic Meteorological Office, cautioned against the possibility of more fissures opening

Eruption in the fissure largely subsided after the lava flow destroyed three homes Sunday

Eruption in the fissure largely subsided after the lava flow destroyed three homes Sunday

Iceland Air, the country's national carrier, announced that the operation of the country's major airport would not be affected

Iceland Air, the country’s national carrier, announced that the operation of the country’s major airport would not be affected

Police begged locals to steer clear of the eruption site.

‘We ask people not to go to the eruption on foot,’ local police said.

‘It is extremely cold outside and the walk is long and the ground is unstable in terms of cracks and other things.

‘In addition, all responders are busy and do not have the manpower to pick up people who leave on foot.’

They noted that the area around the volcano was dangerous due to fissures, gas and other hazards.

Iceland’s prime minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, urged residents to band together and uplift one another.

‘Today is a black day for Grindavík and today is a black day for all of Iceland, but the sun will rise again,’ she said.

‘Together we will deal with this shock and whatever may come. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.’

Speaking to local media, Jakobsdóttir admitted that the lava was frighteningly close to the town.

Aerial view of the lava field near Grindavík on December 22, 2023

Aerial view of the lava field near Grindavík on December 22, 2023

People watch as the night sky is illuminated by the eruption of a volcano near the fishing town on December 18, 2023

People watch as the night sky is illuminated by the eruption of a volcano near the fishing town on December 18, 2023

A man adjusts his camera near Keflavik, Iceland, during Sunday's eruption

A man adjusts his camera near Keflavik, Iceland, during Sunday’s eruption

The sun can be seen through dark plumes of smoke rising from the volcano

The sun can be seen through dark plumes of smoke rising from the volcano

The evacuation, she insisted, was called at the right time. 

‘Of course, we have all eyes on this area to ensure the safety of the residents. However, it is quite clear that this is a huge burden for the townspeople. Naturally, the pressure is starting to take its toll on people,’ she continued.

‘As the situation is now, we are seeing that the lava is flowing towards Grindavík. The ramparts, however, may be useful even if the southern part of the fissure extends into them. We are monitoring the situation from minute to minute.’ 

The country’s president issued his own statement.

‘We are still reminded of the power of the forces of nature,’ President Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson said.

‘And still we hope for the best, as we do everything in our power to ensure people’s lives. 

‘[We are trying] to protect structures to the best of our ability. 

Members of a rescue team watch a volcanic eruption north of the southwestern Icelandic town of Grindavík

Members of a rescue team watch a volcanic eruption north of the southwestern Icelandic town of Grindavík

Iceland's president, Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson, said in a statement posted to social media: 'We are still reminded of the power of the forces of nature'

Iceland’s president, Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson, said in a statement posted to social media: ‘We are still reminded of the power of the forces of nature’

A police car blocks the access to the road that leads to Grindavík on January 14, 2024

A police car blocks the access to the road that leads to Grindavík on January 14, 2024

A massive plume of gas was seen rising from the site of Sunday's eruption

A massive plume of gas was seen rising from the site of Sunday’s eruption

‘Together we Icelanders think warmly of [residents of Grindavík], and everyone who takes care of public protection and operations on the scene. Now we are all tested.’

Iceland is home to 33 active volcano systems, the highest number in Europe.

The January 14 eruption is Iceland’s fifth in two years, the previous one occurring on December 18, 2023 in the same region southwest of Reykjavik. 

That eruption started in the Svartsengi volcanic system and came after Grindavík’s 4,000 inhabitants completely evacuated.

The fishing town was ultimately spared as the lava flowed in a different direction.

While volcanic eruptions aren’t uncommon in Iceland, volcanoes on the Reykjanes Peninsula were dormant for 800 years until 2021. 

Lying between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, two of the largest on the planet, Iceland is a seismic and volcanic hot spot as the two plates move in opposite directions. 

The residents of Grindavík were forced to evacuate overnight following a series of earthquakes

The residents of Grindavík were forced to evacuate overnight following a series of earthquakes

The first eruption on January 14 was understood to have taken place around 7.50am

The first eruption on January 14 was understood to have taken place around 7.50am

Lava flowed towards the sleepy fishing village, coasting past heaps of dirt and rock that were meant to hinder it

Lava flowed towards the sleepy fishing village, coasting past heaps of dirt and rock that were meant to hinder it

Lava was seen just 500 meters away from Grindavík before crossing into the town

Lava was seen just 500 meters away from Grindavík before crossing into the town

The December eruption began around 2.4 miles from the town of Grindavík at the Sundhjuka crater, on the Reykjanes peninsula. 

Thrill-seekers were criticised for venturing towards, not away, from the eruption that forced thousands to flee their homes. 

‘It’s just something from a movie!’ Robert Donald Forrester III, a tourist from the United States, said at the time. 

A group of boys named told local media in December that they usually headed towards eruptions in Reykjanes.

‘We are trying to see the eruption. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any closer. It’s a hobby that we’ve had for four years, attending every single eruption, and we’ll continue to do so.’

For local residents, the emotions were mixed.

The Reykjanesbraut, a key Icelandic highway in the area, was lit up with white headlights from cars travelling towards, not away from, the crater in December

Snow-covered cars were parked nearby

The Reykjanesbraut, a key Icelandic highway in the area, was lit up with white headlights from cars travelling towards, not away from, the crater (left) while cars were parked nearby (right) in December

The Ministry of the Environment was forced to issue repeated warnings to those thinking about getting close to the volcano last month

The Ministry of the Environment was forced to issue repeated warnings to those thinking about getting close to the volcano last month

A group watches as smoke billows into the sky from the volcano explosion in December

A group watches as smoke billows into the sky from the volcano explosion in December

‘The town involved might end up under the lava,’ said Ael Kermarec, a French tour guide living in Iceland. ‘It’s amazing to see but, there’s kind of a bittersweet feeling at the moment.’ 

The Ministry of the Environment issued repeated warnings to those thinking about getting close to the volcano.

‘Think about someone other than yourself and follow the guidelines of the public safety. Please,’ one spokesman said.

Police urged people to stay out of first responders’ way and leave roads as accessible as possible.



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