Earthquakes are shaking Iceland’s southwest nook, forcing evacuations, rupturing roadways and placing locals on excessive alert for a volcanic eruption.
On Friday, Iceland declared a state of emergency attributable to seismic swarms north of Grindavík and the escalating threat of a volcanic occasion. Officers urged residents within the city of Grindavík to evacuate.
The choice got here roughly someday after the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa – one in all Iceland’s prime vacationer points of interest – introduced a week-long shutdown as 1000’s of small earthquakes rocked the Reykjanes Peninsula.
“There can be a volcanic eruption in some unspecified time in the future,” says Þorvaldur Þórðarson, a vulcanology professor on the College of Iceland. “If it doesn’t occur now, I believe it’ll occur within the close to future.”
Whereas it’s unattainable to pinpoint the precise location of an eruption, the Icelandic Meteorological Workplace suspects magma might emerge in or close to Grindavík. There’s additionally the potential for a submarine eruption – an explosive occasion that might produce a harmful ash cloud.
A 320-sq-mile land mass lined in mossy lava rocks, kaleidoscopic volcanic craters and tiny cities abutting the ocean, the Reykjanes Peninsula stretches 17 miles southwest of Reykjavík, Iceland’s capital and most populous metropolis. For the reason that peninsula is house to Keflavík Worldwide Airport (KEF), it’s additionally the place most guests enter Iceland – making its worth to Iceland’s tourism economic system immense.
Should you’re touring within the nation or visiting quickly, right here’s every part you must know in regards to the seismic scenario – and learn how to plan a secure expertise.
How frequent are earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in Iceland?
Sitting atop the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the place the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates diverge, Iceland is a hotbed for earthquakes and volcanoes. “It’s one of the volcanically energetic areas on planet Earth,” says Þórðarson.
Common seismic exercise is part of native life, with a mean of 26,000 earthquakes yearly. Most of those tremors are imperceptible to people, and Icelandic structure is constructed to face up to the Earth’s agitations. Should you do really feel an earthquake, it’ll normally be a minor tremble – hardly noticeable and simply forgettable.
Of the nation’s 130 volcanoes, scientists think about 33 volcanic methods energetic. Eruptions happen each 5 years, on common – except you take a look at current tendencies. In 2021, the Reykjanes Peninsula began spewing lava after mendacity dormant for 800 years. Eruptions have jolted the peninsula yearly since, marking a brand new volcanic period for the area.
Not like Iceland’s harmful eruptions at Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 and Katla in 1918, the Reykjanes Peninsula’s volcanic websites have been largely accessible and “tourist-friendly,” says Þórðarson. “It’s been straightforward for folks to rise up near the exercise and have a volcanic expertise. It’s not so frequent on planet Earth.”
It’s unclear if the approaching eruption can be secure for vacationers to go to.
Is it secure to go to Iceland?
Sure – relying on the place you’re touring, that’s. Elevated seismic exercise is presently localized in a single a part of the Reykjanes Peninsula, which impacts the city of Grindavík, the Blue Lagoon and roads touring to these areas.
In every single place else within the nation is presently safe. KEF continues to function usually, and the highway linking Reykjavík and the airport stays unaffected. Latest occasions haven’t disrupted flights.
For worldwide vacationers involved about international repercussions, there’s little motive to fret. “Even when a volcanic eruption turns into extra intense than what we noticed in 2021, it’s not going to be any depth that may threaten worldwide air site visitors,” says Þórðarson, referencing Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull eruption, which shut down air site visitors throughout the Atlantic and in elements of Europe for a whopping seven days.
Will journey insurance coverage reimburse me if I cancel or postpone my journey?
Probably. Journey insurance coverage typically covers harmful forces like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions – however solely if you buy insurance coverage earlier than the catastrophe happens, and the occasions straight influence your journey.
This would possibly imply you’re pressured to evacuate, lodging turn into unlivable otherwise you’re delayed from touring for a major period of time, amongst different circumstances.
For instance, if you happen to booked journey to Grindavík this week and acquired journey insurance coverage earlier than the earthquakes, your supplier will seemingly cowl cancellation. However if you happen to booked a visit to Reykjavík, which is basically unaffected by earthquakes, you’re most likely out of luck.
These guidelines fluctuate by firm, so learn the effective print earlier than buying a plan. For clarification or recommendation, think about calling your insurer straight.
I used to be planning to go to the Blue Lagoon. What ought to I do as a substitute?
In accordance with the Blue Lagoon, friends with confirmed reservations by means of November 15 have already been contacted, and “full refunds can be issued for all affected bookings all through the closing interval.” The on-site pool, spa, lodges and eating places will stay closed till November 16. The corporate will reassess the scenario because it evolves.
Should you’re on the lookout for a geothermal spa expertise much like Blue Lagoon, Lonely Planet journalist Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir recommends making an attempt Sky Lagoon, Hvammsvík Sizzling Springs or Krauma – all inside driving distance of Reykjavík. For a wise soak with seaside views, it’s also possible to dip within the Guðlaug Baths – a two-story scorching tub in Akranes, 45 minutes north of Reykjavík by automobile.
Or you can do because the locals do. “I at all times go to the general public swimming swimming pools, that are a lot cheaper,” says Arnarsdóttir. The time period “swimming pool” could be deceptive for foreigners: at public swimming pools like Reykjavík’s Laugardalslaug, you’ll additionally discover scorching tubs, steam baths and a number of different facilities much like the Blue Lagoon’s choices.
What precautions ought to vacationers in Iceland presently take?
For dependable, up-to-date data on touring safely all through Iceland – together with ongoing protection of present seismic exercise and highway closures – go to safetravel.is.
Should you’re touring in or close to the Reykjanes Peninsula, guarantee your cellphone is totally charged and operational, since authorities ship security alerts to cell phones in impacted areas. There’s no must obtain an app to obtain these messages.
Ought to a volcanic eruption happen and authorities deem it secure to go to, Þórðarson implores vacationers to take crucial precautions. Poisonous gasses and burning lava will be lethal, so comply with native directions and put together accordingly. (There are additionally loads of secure methods to discover Iceland’s volcanic wonders, like descending into the dormant Þríhnúkagígur volcano or seeing molten lava in motion at Reykjavík’s Lava Present.)
Þórðarson additionally recommends staying in an space removed from Grindavík – if solely to get an excellent night time’s sleep. “Some folks get used to [earthquakes],” he says, “however most individuals don’t.”
And if you wish to keep away from volcanoes altogether, head to the Westfjords – the one a part of Iceland with out an energetic volcano system.