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After More Than 40K Tiny Quakes, an Eruption

Volcano on Iceland's Reykjanes Peninsula finally blew on Friday night
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 20, 2021 6:30 AM CDT

(Newser) – They knew it was coming. For weeks, residents in Iceland have been feeling the ground tremble as the island nation was pummeled by tens of thousands of tiny earthquakes, a phenomenon that scientists warned appeared to be a precursor to a volcanic eruption. On Friday night, that eruption took place in the area around Mount Fagradalsfjall, located on the Reykjanes Peninsula in the southwest portion of the county, reports NPR. The Icelandic Meteorological Office has so far deemed the event a "minor" one, noting that lava flows are a "very local hazard," there doesn't seem to be ash and rock production, and "gas pollution is not expected to cause much discomfort," except perhaps for residents closest to the volcano. Those people were advised to stay inside for the time being and keep their windows shut.

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Officials say they don't anticipate having to carry out evacuations, and air travel isn't expected to be disrupted as it was in 2010 when the Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted. Per the AP, it's the first eruption on the peninsula in almost eight centuries. The BBC reports that Iceland had registered upward of 40,000 earthquakes over the past three weeks, though the AP notes that scientists were still taken a bit by surprise at Friday's eruption, as seismic activity had slowed down in recent days. A magnitude 3.1 quake was recorded less than a mile from Fagradalsfjall shortly before the eruption. Residents in the capital city of Reykjavik, about 20 miles away, and other nearby towns could spot the lava flow from where they were. "I can see the glowing red sky from my window," one local who lives in Grindavik, about 5 miles from the eruption, told Reuters. "Everyone here is getting into their cars to drive up there." (Read more Iceland stories.)

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