Iceland eruption looks to be petering out – but whether residents will return to homes with lava at their door is another matter

World

Standing on the hill overlooking the eruption site, it’s clear how perilously close it is to the Icelandic town of Grindavik.

A search and rescue team going into the exclusion zone, past the Blue Lagoon spa and towards the evacuated town, can see the fire fountains spouting molten rock and lava sweeping towards people’s homes from their vantage point.

The eruption has subsided overnight.

It’s nothing like the curtain of fire videoed by the coastguard helicopter on Sunday.

Iceland volcano latest: Lava inside town – after ‘worst-case scenario’ hits

There are three fire fountains. One was spouting lava a good five metres into the air; the other two were smaller.

The lava doesn’t seem to be moving now, but it is glowing red-hot in places.

Steam and smoke rise into the chilly winter air.

But the lava has already caused considerable damage, severing the pipes that took hot water from the nearby power station into the town.

Image:
Pic:@bsteinbekk/Reuters

Image:
Pic:@bsteinbek/Reuters

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A map shows the most hazardous spots in the area

It means homes have no heat. And at this time of year that makes them uninhabitable.

Engineers are assessing how the pipes might be rerouted, but that will take a while.

The defensive wall that workers have been building over the last fortnight has prevented more considerable damage to the town.

Image:
A defensive wall that workers have been building

It’s about three metres high, built from rock and earth. And it has diverted much of the lava flow.

It’s the first time it has ever been tried and it worked.

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The wall hasn’t been finished though, and where it was slightly lower it was overtopped by lava.

The second fissure, which opened up much closer to town, inside the defensive wall, took everyone by surprise.

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Houses set alight from volcanic eruption

There was nothing to stop the lava, but fortunately only three houses appear to have been consumed by the molten rock or burned by the intense heat.

Civil defence teams are now taking stock of the situation.

If the eruption is petering out already, then repairs can start.

But whether the people of Grindavik want to return to their homes when lava is looming on their doorstep is another matter.

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