Helicopter footage taken by Iceland’s coast guard shows giant cracks in the ground, days after a state of emergency was declared on the island due to the threat of a volcanic eruption.
The measure was introduced a few days ago after a series of earthquakes on the Reykjanes Peninsula, in the south-west of the island nation in the North Atlantic Ocean. According to the Daily Mail, more than 700 earthquakes were recorded there in just 24 hours – from November 14 to 15, and although they are slightly weaker than the previous days, the Fagradalsfjall volcano is still expected to erupt.
The footage, also taken by a BBC team on a mission with the Icelandic coastguard over the peninsula, showed a chasm running through the center of Reykjanes and smoke rising from the gaping rifts. Magma is believed to flow beneath the fault.
Scientists fear the area could be facing decades of increasing volcanic instability. Fears of an impending eruption led to the evacuation of the small fishing town of Grindavik, which was partially submerged by more than a meter.
The 4,000 or so evacuated residents reported hearing “terrible sounds” from underground as they fled. Those allowed to return to collect belongings from their abandoned homes were told to drop everything and run if they heard sirens.
Meanwhile, authorities are urgently preparing to build protective walls around a nearby geothermal power plant, hoping to keep out the lava flows and amid fears that a volcanic eruption may be imminent.
One of the country’s most popular tourist attractions, the nearby Blue Lagoon, will remain closed until the end of the month.