Iceland remains on eruption alert as seismic activity wanes

By Johannes Birkebaek

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Icelandic authorities said on Friday they were still on alert for a volcanic eruption in the southwest Reykjanes peninsula, although the odds were falling after a drop in seismic activity.

Iceland has been living with a high risk of an eruption since seismic activity and underground lava flows increased in the region near the capital Reykjavik in late October.

The Metrological Office said in a statement that an eruption in or near the evacuated town of Grindavik was now seen as less likely and that volcanic magma is most likely to rise in the area between Hagafell and Sýlingarfell.

“Seismic activity continues to decrease,” it said, adding that “the likelihood of eruption decreases over time”.

Five ministers from the Icelandic parliament visited Grindavik on Friday, where evacuated residents have been allowed back since Thursday to pick up more personal belongings.

But it will be months before they all are able to move back to Grindavik due to infrastructure damage, Icelandic media RUV quoted public safety director Vidir Reynisson as saying.

As a result of a decrease in activity since the start of the week, the risk level related to earthquakes in Grindavik was lowered from emergency to danger level on Thursday, Iceland’s civil defence authority said in a statement.

(Reporting by Johannes Birkebaek; Editing by Alexander Smith)