Iceland's 'Intense Wave' of Quakes Could Mean Something More

Island nation declares state of emergency, shutters Blue Lagoon, warning of possible volcanic eruption
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 11, 2023 7:45 AM CST
In 14 Hours, Iceland Experienced Almost 800 Quakes
Bathers enjoy the warm waters of the Blue Lagoon in Iceland on Sept. 5, 2003. The geothermal spa has temporarily closed after a series of earthquakes have put Iceland's southwestern corner on volcanic alert.   (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, File)

Officials have declared a state of emergency in Iceland and are scrambling to evacuate a southwestern coastal town after what CNN describes as an "intense wave of earthquakes"—and they fear it all portends yet another hit from Mother Nature. According to the Icelandic Meteorological Office, there were almost 800 temblors registered between midnight and 2pm on Friday, with the shallowest at a depth of around 2 miles. In fact, the AP notes the island has experienced small quakes every day for more than two weeks now, and Iceland's Department of Civil Protection fears the occurrences could trigger some of the nation's 30-plus active volcanoes.

"Earthquakes may become bigger than those that have already occurred, and this sequence of events could lead to an eruption," the agency says, warning that a magma tunnel may be forming underground that could make it to the town of Grindavik, per CNN. The department notes that "there are still no signs that the magma is nearing the surface," and it's keeping an eye on things, but authorities are still urging Grindavik's 3,400 or so locals to evacuate, though they're also stressing that it's not an emergency evac and that residents should stay calm as they pack up.

One of Iceland's most famous attractions is now shuttered as a result of the quakes. The New York Times reports that the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa in Grindavik, closed itself down Thursday as a precaution and will remain closed until at least next Thursday. "After many days of seismic activity in the area, and a night with powerful earthquakes, the disruption to our guests and prolonged strain on our employees was the primary reason behind our decision," Blue Lagoon management noted, adding on its website that it "will carefully monitor the seismic developments, in cooperation with the local authorities, and reassess the situation as necessary." (More Iceland stories.)

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