Drone footage shows home in flames as lava pours into Iceland town

REYKJAVIK – Molten lava consumed several homes in the evacuated Icelandic town of Grindavik after a series of earthquakes awakened the Svartsengi volcanic system after almost 800 years.

Björn Steinbekk, who is on Instagram at @bsteinbekk, shared drone footage, saying he was “devastated” by the eruption, and described what was happening as a “terrible tragedy to people’s homes.”

“The events that started around 4 am with massive earthquakes, evacuation, and eruption are the opposite of everything that has made me want to film volcano eruptions,” Steinbekk wrote on Instagram. “These images are posted to bring you the dark side of volcanos,” he said.

Scientists said Monday that the eruption appeared to be dying down, but it was too soon to declare the danger over.

Iceland President Gudni Th. Johannesson said in a televised address late Sunday that “a daunting period of upheaval has begun on the Reykjanes peninsula” where a long-dormant volcanic system has awakened.

A volcano on the peninsula erupted for the second time in less than a month on Sunday, with orange lava bursting through two fissures near the fishing town of Grindavik. Authorities had ordered residents to leave hours earlier as a swarm of small earthquakes indicated an imminent eruption.

The nearby Blue Lagoon geothermal spa — one of Iceland’s biggest tourist attractions — also shut and said it would remain closed until at least Tuesday.

Grindavik, a town of 3,800 people about 50 kilometers (30 miles) southwest of the capital, Reykjavik, was previously evacuated in November when the Svartsengi volcanic system awakened after almost 800 years with a series of earthquakes that opened large cracks in the earth between the town and Sýlingarfell, a small mountain to the north.

The volcano eventually erupted on Dec. 18, sending lava flowing away from Grindavik. Residents were allowed to return to their homes on Dec. 22.

Since then, emergency workers have been building defensive walls that have stopped much of the lava flow from the new eruption short of the town.

No one has been killed in the eruptions, but a workman is missing after reportedly falling into a crack opened by the volcano.

“We don’t yet know how this eruption will unfold, but we must still take those actions that are within our power,” the president said. “We will carry on with our responsibilities and we will continue to stand together.

“We continue to hope for as good an outcome as possible, in the face of these tremendous forces of nature,” he added.

Iceland, which sits above a volcanic hot spot in the North Atlantic, averages one eruption every four to five years. The most disruptive in recent times was the 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, which spewed clouds of ash into the atmosphere and disrupted trans-Atlantic air travel for months.

The latest eruption isn’t expected to release large amounts of ash into the air. Operations at Keflavík Airport are continuing as normal, said Gudjon Helgason, spokesperson for airport operator Isavia.

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