An Icelandic volcanologist is sounding the alarm about a 3-foot deep sinkhole discovered near the site of a volcano threatening eruption.
It’s a sign that the volcanic eruption could reach the town limits of Grindavík, which was evacuated days ago. The sinkhole joins a growing list of signs that the volcano is threatening to erupt, as it implies that the magma has reached a shallow depth under the town.
The discovery comes after hundreds of earthquakes were recorded this past Friday, with thousands of tremors occurring near the Fagradalsfjall volcano in recent weeks. A magma tunnel extending across Grindavík also was discovered, heightening fears that an eruption was imminent.
Iceland has since declared a state of emergency because of the threat, and police have ordered residents to evacuate Grindavík, a coastal town of nearly 4,000 people.
Earthquakes often occur in the days leading up to a volcanic eruption because magma is moving and applies increased pressure to the surrounding rocks.
The volcano was silent for nearly 800 years until 2021. An eruption has occurred roughly every year afterward, with the most recent eruption occurring in July south of Reykjavík.
Volcanologist Thorvaldur Þórðarson told Iceland’s local Channel 2 Evening News that the eruption could reach the town limits, adding that it was a “darker scenario” than he had imagined, according to an English translation of the report.
“Everything indicates that Grindavík will be able to see an eruption that is rather close,” he said.
If lava were to emerge near the sinkhole, Þórðarson said it would likely flow westward, away from the town. It remains unclear how much the town could be impacted by an eruption if or when the volcano erupts.
The Icelandic Meteorological Office warned that there was “significant likelihood of a volcanic eruption in the coming days” in an update published to its website on Monday. Around 900 earthquakes have occurred since midnight on Monday, the office said, with thousands occurring since Friday.
After officials evacuated Grindavík in preparation for the volcano, fury was sparked when people were forced to leave their pets behind as they fled from the town over the weekend. Since the evacuation, some people have been allowed to briefly return to the town to retrieve personal items and their pets.
Meanwhile, if the volcano remains active, residents may not be permitted to return to their homes for weeks.
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