As Iceland waits for a possible volcanic eruption, the more than 3,000 residents of a small fishing town that was evacuated on Saturday are slowly gathering some of their personal possessions with the help from emergency workers.
“We are hoping that nature will allow us this time for everyone to retrieve their most valuable personal possessions,” Jon Phor Viglundsson, a spokesman for Iceland’s Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management said on Thursday.
As of Thursday, the Icelandic Met Office, the country’s weather service, continued to warn that there was a “significant likelihood of a volcanic eruption in the coming days.”
Since late October, tens of thousands of earthquakes have been reported in the Reykjanes Peninsula, in the southwestern part of the country. At one point there were as many as 1,400 in a single 24-hour period.
As a result, Grindavik has sunk about three feet and there are major cracks in the town’s roads, Mr. Viglundsson said. Many of the town’s 1,200 homes have been damaged.
When is this volcano going to erupt?
It’s hard to predict. The authorities have said for a few days that it could be a matter of days.
This week, they said that the intensity of the seismic activity had decreased a bit, but have continued to warn for a possible eruption. The seismic activity along the underground magma continues.
While the eruption could be big, it is a highly localized event, officials say. No other towns have been evacuated and the area around Grindavik doesn’t have any farms or smaller villages.
Iceland, a country of fewer than 400,000 people and about 130 volcanoes, has a long history of volcanic activity. Most of the country’s volcanoes are active.
The country straddles two tectonic plates, which are themselves divided by an undersea mountain chain that oozes molten hot rock, or magma. Earthquakes occur when the magma pushes through the plates.
An eruption seems unlikely to disrupt air travel.
In 2010, when the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, one of the country’s largest, erupted, a resulting ash cloud grounded much of the air travel in Europe and disrupted aviation for days.
It’s unlikely this eruption will cause quite the same level of disruption, Iceland’s government has said. “There are no disruptions to flights to and from Iceland and international flight corridors remain open,” the government said on its website. “Seismic activity is part of Icelandic life and this potential eruption is likely to impact a limited local area of the country.”
“While the possibility of air traffic disturbance cannot be entirely ruled out, scientists consider it an unlikely scenario,” the government said on its website.
While an orange aviation alert has been put in place, the government noted there have been no flight disruptions and international flight corridors remain open. Delta, United and British Airways all indicated they were closely watching reports out of Iceland.
Is it too late to buy travel insurance?
It may be. Travel insurance would typically cover trip interruptions and evacuations caused by natural disasters, but only if you purchased the plan “before the news or warnings of the eruption became public,” said Stan Sandberg, a co-founder of TravelInsurance.com, which helps travelers compare and purchase such insurance.
Coverage might also include trip-delay benefits if the volcano eventually affects air travel, but read the fine print, he said, because plans vary significantly.
The European Union’s fair passenger rights, which provide compensation for delays and cancellations, also apply in Iceland.
Where can I find updates?
Iceland is a tourism-friendly place with a dramatic landscape and attractive airline deals to draw visitors. One website livestreams several areas of the country, especially volcanic areas. (Watch what’s going on in the Reykjanes Peninsula.)
Officials continue to monitor any activity in real time, according to the Icelandic Met Office, especially near Grindavik, for indications of sudden changes.
Julie Weed contributed reporting.