A volcano that spewed glowing red lava near Iceland’s capital Reykjavik after awakening for the first time in 900 years appeared to be subsiding and posing no danger to people, experts said.
Streams of red lava bubbled and flowed out of a fissure in a valley in Geldingadalur, close to Mount Fagradalsfjall on the Reykjanes peninsula in southwestern Iceland.
As the lava flow slowed under rain showers on Saturday, a blue gas plume and a vapour cloud rose from the site, just 40km (25 miles) from the capital and near a popular tourist destination, the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa.
The eruption occurred on Friday about 20:45 GMT, lighting up the night sky with a crimson glow as hundreds of small earthquakes shook the area.
Iceland’s Keflavik International Airport and the small fishing port of Grindavik are just a few kilometres away, but the zone is uninhabited and the eruption did not present any danger to the public.
“The eruption is considered small at this stage and the volcanic activity has somewhat decreased since yesterday evening,” the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO), which monitors seismic activity, said in a statement on Saturday.
It said the “eruptive fissure” measured approximately 500 to 700 metres (1,640 to 2,300 feet).
The lava area, it added, was less than one square kilometre (0.4 square miles), with small lava fountains.
Speaking to reporters, University of Iceland geophysicist Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson described the valley as an “ideal” spot for the eruption, likening it to “a bathtub the lava can slowly leak into”.
IMO earthquake hazards coordinator Kristin Jonsdottir said it was “very likely the eruption will last for the next few days”.
Sigurdur Kristmundsson, a 54-year-old Grindavik port official, told AFP news agency that locals were exhilarated by the eruption.
“Nobody is in danger or anything like that. So I think people are excited and not afraid of it.”
Keflavik Airport, Iceland’s international air traffic hub, said flights have remained on schedule since the eruption began.
In 2010, an eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland sent clouds of ash and dust into the atmosphere, interrupting air travel between Europe and North America because of concerns the material could damage jet engines.
More than 100,000 flights were grounded, stranding millions of passengers.