GRINDAVIK, ICELAND —
Following a series of earthquakes indicating a potential volcanic eruption, residents who were forced to evacuate from Grindavik, Iceland are left questioning if they will be able to come back.
Eythor Reynisson, a native of Grindavik, shared that there will likely be many individuals who have no desire to return to that place. He also recalled his mother stating, “I never want to go there again,” to AFP.
On November 11, a fishing port with a population of 4,000 on the southern coast of Iceland was cleared out due to a series of earthquakes caused by magma movement beneath the Earth’s surface. This indicates a possible volcanic eruption.
The area has experienced numerous smaller earthquakes since then.
The previously beautiful town of Grindavik now appears to be a battleground, with huge cracks causing damage to roads and buildings’ concrete bases destroyed.
It will take several months to fix the damage to the town hall.
According to a geophysicist from the University of Iceland, Freysteinn Sigmundsson, there is a question about whether it is safe to reside in a town with a history of volcanic activity, even if there is currently no magma flow or risk of eruption.
The last time the Reykjanes peninsula had an eruption was 800 years ago, before 2021.
Subsequently, there have been three eruptions in isolated, unpopulated regions. Volcanologists speculate that this could mark the beginning of a new period of increased volcanic activity in the area.
Sigmundsson cautioned about a challenging time of unpredictability in the future, as volcanic eruptions may occur in the upcoming years.
The situation has caused residents to question the value of rebuilding their homes.
According to Sigmundsson, in order for the area to be considered safe, the current activity must stop first.
He stated that there is a chance the activity might relocate to a different location, and in that case, it may be deemed appropriate to return to Grindavik.
Despite the circumstances, the strong sense of community was apparent as Grindavik residents lined up this week to retrieve their belongings that they had left behind during the rushed evacuation.
The people living in the area hugged and enjoyed moments of joy together.
“I am currently experiencing intense emotions,” shared Johannes Johannesson with AFP.
For certain individuals, residing near volcanoes is a natural part of their surroundings.
Reynisson expressed confidence in our resilient community’s ability to rebuild.
Iceland has the largest number of active volcano systems in Europe, with a total of 33. It has experienced previous impacts on its towns.
In 1973, a crack in the earth’s surface released hot lava and ash only 150 meters away from the main area of the island Heimaey. This unexpected event occurred at daybreak and caught the townspeople off guard.
One-third of the households were demolished and 5,300 individuals were forced to leave their homes. Tragically, one person lost their life.
In Grindavik, the air is filled with steam due to hot water pipes bursting, and the electricity grid faces challenges in maintaining operations during the night due to damage to the infrastructure.
Residents are currently searching for places to stay such as hotels, with loved ones, or at emergency shelters until their situation improves.
Officials have arranged sporadic excursions to the harbor city, accompanying individuals who reside in the most dangerous areas to retrieve their belongings, including beloved pets, photo albums, furniture, and clothing.
However, the procedures are being carried out with extreme care. On Tuesday, the town was promptly evacuated after sulfur dioxide levels indicated that the magma was approaching the surface.
Reynisson admitted that there was a sense of panic.
Today or in a month
For nearly a week, Iceland has been on edge, anticipating a possible eruption at any time.
Sigmundsson clarified that there continues to be an influx of fresh magma into the fissure, causing it to expand.
If magma continues to flow into the fissure, the chances of an eruption remain elevated.
The researcher advised that we should be ready for a possible eruption either today, in the next week, or potentially even within the next month.
According to Sigmundsson, the town of Grindavik and areas north of it are the most probable location for a volcanic eruption.
This will result in a prolonged and stressful period for those who live here in the upcoming weeks.
Johannesson stated that the current plans involve attempting to handle the situation and establish a routine for the family to continue moving forward.