Iceland braces for ‘imminent’ volcanic eruption with just 30 minutes warning

Iceland watches on helplessly as rescue workers escorting locals back to the evacuated fishing town of Grindavik say it is “now a waiting game” before an eruption.

Gripped viewers are glued to main TV News channel RUV.is as it plays a live stream of the glowing crater with modern Icelandic electronic music underneath as the countdown continued on Tuesday.

It comes as 1,200 households scramble to grab as many “heartfelt” objects as they can under observation from rescue teams from the town above the volatile Reykjanes Peninsula.

The police checkpoint lies 25km (15.5 miles) away from the town but only 12km (7.5 miles) from cracks starting to form across the roads and stretching far into the mountains.

On Tuesday, families waved as they were allowed out with cars full of toys, photographs and one vehicle towing a jetski amid intense hail storms and heavy winds hampering accurate seismic readings.

Jon Baglundsson, spokesperson for the ICE-SAR, a volunteer rescue team escorting hundreds to retrieve valuables, said it’s “now a waiting game”.

He told The Independent: “Since the village was evacuated over a week ago we have been working to let residents retrieve their most heartfelt valuables in small numbers every day.

“This project has been going quite well and running smoothly.

“This takes time, there are 1,200 homes. People are mostly coming back for pictures of children, grandchildren on hard drives or whatever people store on their memories nowadays.”

In recent days, 1,500 to 1,800 earthquakes have been recorded daily in the region, according to the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO).

Mr Baglundsson added: “The seismic activity has dwindled slightly but land is still rising to the northwest of the town.

“An eruption is still expected and imminent but we just don’t know when or where. There is no time limit but they are asked to go as quickly as they can.

“We always have concerns for their safety and that is why people are allowed in few numbers and escorted by people from search and rescue teams who have a radio on them at all times

“They are prepared with an escape route if something happens and will receive alerts from scientists at the Met Office if there are any indications an eruption is more imminent than it already is.

“When magma breaks to the surface you see a kind of murmur on seismological meters and a lot of small tremors. Which indicates that magma is reaching the last 100m to the surface.

The Svartsengi geothermal power plant near the evacuated town of Grindavik

“There hasn’t been any panicking but they do realise what can happen … they show understanding and have concern for their own safety.

“Imagine being evacuated from your home and you have no idea when or if you will have a home to return to. The uncertainty is probably the worst.”

Britons were still boarding flights to Rejkavic with a nearly full plane on Monday morning unperturbed by reports of the possible eruption.

One couple Joseph and Rachel Hamilton, both 28, said they trusted in the Icelandic authority’s advice and had already paid for their “trip of a lifetime”.

A police checkpoint some 24km from Grindavik


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