Iceland volcano erupts again, spewing fountains of lava


A volcano in Iceland erupted on Saturday for the fourth time since December, the country's meteorological office said, spewing smoke and bright orange lava into the air in sharp contrast against the dark night sky.

In a video shot from a Coast Guard helicopter and shown on public broadcaster RUV, fountains of molten rock soared from a long fissure in the ground, and lava spread rapidly to each side.

The eruption began at 2023 GMT and the fissure was estimated to be about 2.9 kilometres long, roughly the same size as the last eruption in February, the Icelandic Meteorological Office said in a statement.

Authorities had warned for weeks that an eruption was imminent on the Reykjanes peninsula just south of Iceland's capital Reykjavik.

The site of the eruption was between Hagafell and Stora-Skogfell, the same area as the previous outbreak on February 8, the Met Office said.

"This was definitely expected," said Rikke Pedersen, head of the Nordic Volcanological Centre.

"Of course the exact time of the eruption is impossible to predict. The first cues of this moving towards the surface actually only happened about 15 minutes in advance," she said.

Reykjavik's Keflavik Airport's website showed it remained open both for departures and arrivals.

Lava appeared to be flowing rapidly south towards the nearby Grindavik fishing town, where a few of the nearly 4,000 residents had returned following earlier outbreaks, the Met Office said.

The town was again being evacuated, public broadcaster RUV reported. An outbreak in January burned to the ground several of its homes.

Icelandic police said they had declared a state of emergency for the area.

The nearby Blue Lagoon luxury geothermal spa immediately shut its doors, as it did during previous eruptions.

Iceland, roughly the size of the U.S. state of Kentucky, boasts more than 30 active volcanoes, making the north European island a prime destination for volcano tourism - a niche segment that attracts thousands of thrill seekers.

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