The renowned Blue Lagoon spa in HUSAVIK, Iceland has been forced to shut down due to a series of earthquakes. This has caused concern for the nearby highly populated area, as there is a chance of a volcanic eruption.
Customers hurriedly departed the hotels at the spa in the wee hours of Thursday morning, after being abruptly woken up around 1 a.m. by a 4.8 magnitude earthquake, the most powerful one to occur in the area since the series of tremors started on October 25th.
When Bjarni Stefansson, a taxi driver from the area, arrived at the Retreat Hotel, he witnessed a chaotic scene. The road was obstructed by lava rocks and the parking lot was full with 20 to 30 taxis.
Stefansson informed The Associated Press that there was a state of panic as individuals believed a volcanic eruption was imminent.
For over two weeks, the Reykjanes Peninsula’s Mount Thorbjorn area has experienced numerous small earthquakes each day. This is caused by a buildup of volcanic magma approximately 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) below the surface. The Icelandic Met Office reports that the land in this region has risen by 9 centimeters since October 27, but there are currently no signs of an imminent eruption.
The Met Office stated that scientists are carefully monitoring the situation to detect any signs of seismic activity moving closer to the surface. This could be a signal that magma is breaking through the Earth’s crust.
The agency stated on its website that there are currently no indications of earthquakes occurring at shallower depths. However, the situation may change rapidly and it cannot be ruled out that a volcanic eruption may occur in the northwest region of Thorbjorn.
Iceland, located above a volcano in the North Atlantic, experiences eruptions approximately every four to five years. The most significant eruption in recent history occurred in 2010 from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, releasing massive amounts of ash into the air and causing widespread flight cancellations over Europe.
The southwestern coast of Iceland, specifically the Reykjanes Peninsula, is home to a volcanic system that has recently erupted three times. This is notable as it had been inactive for 800 years prior to these eruptions.
In the past, there have been eruptions in isolated valleys that did not result in any harm. Although experts believe this will also be the case with the current activity, there is a possibility that the magma storage chamber, which is currently refilling, could erupt in a location less than 3 kilometers away from the Blue Lagoon.
In the event of a worst-case scenario, the town of Grindavík and the Blue Lagoon, as well as the pipelines that transfer hot water to numerous homes utilizing geothermal energy, would be at risk from lava.
According to volcanologist Thorvaldur Thordarson, we should be ready for the worst case scenario as earthquakes with a magnitude of 5, like the one that occurred last night, often come before volcanic eruptions.
The Blue Lagoon, a popular tourist destination known for its naturally heated seawater pools, has announced a temporary closure due to the disturbance of guests’ experience during the night and the strain it has caused on employees.
According to a statement from the company, the resort will not reopen until November 16th. The company faced backlash for not taking action earlier.
Helga Arnadottir, the spokeswoman, informed the AP that nearly 30 individuals departed from the resort after the earthquake, though the majority were part of a single group who were traveling together.
According to the Met Office, approximately 1,400 earthquakes occurred on the peninsula within a 24-hour period leading up to Thursday at noon.
In the town of Grindavík, which has a population of 3,400, the residents have been facing a series of seismic events since the Reykjanes Peninsula started shaking three years ago. However, the earthquakes last night were more powerful.
Hildur Gunnarsdóttir, a 68-year-old former beautician, stated that she drove her Volkswagen Passat around all night in order to take a break from the constant earthquakes.
Gunnarsdottir monitors seismic movements through a mobile application called My Earthquake Alerts.
“I disabled notifications a few days ago,” she explained. “My phone was constantly buzzing.”