Scientists in Iceland have issued a ‘red alert’ after the country’s largest volcano erupted last night, prompting an immediate ban on all flights over the area.
A small eruption occurred north of Iceland’s Bardarbunga volcano after nearly two weeks of earthquakes in the region but no volcanic ash has yet been detected.
Nevertheless, authorities took the unusual step of closing the airspace above the volcano in a move that echoed the 2010 Eyjafjallajokull ash cloud disaster which brought European air travel to a standstill for six days.
‘The Icelandic Met Office has raised the aviation colourcode over the eruption site to red and the Icelandic Air Traffic Control has closed down the airspace from the earth up to 18000 feet,’ Iceland’s National Crisis Coordination Centre said.
‘No volcanic ash has been detected with the radar system at the moment….Seismic eruption tremor is low indicating effusive eruption without significant explosive activity.
‘Icelandic Met Office spokeswoman Kristin Gudmundsdottir said activity at the fissure seemed to be unchanged in the morning hours after decreasing two hours after the eruption started.
The red warning code indicates that an eruption is imminent or underway, with a risk of ash.
There are fears that an eruption could disrupt air travel over Europe, but Iceland’s meteorological office says there is no evidence that a large eruption is underway.
Bardarbunga is located under Iceland’s largest glacier and it has been rocked by thousands of earthquakes for nearly two weeks.
More than 400 earthquakes were detected between midnight and 6am yesterday. The strongest one yet occurred on Tuesday morning with a magnitude of 5.7.
While airlines remain on alert and travellers nervously book flights, UK-based travel company Discover the World has received plenty of its interest in its ‘volcano hotline’.
The tour operator is planning to fly customers to the eruption site – if there is one – and almost 200 people have signed up over the last week.
In 2010, Discover the World took tourists to the Fimmvorduhals eruption in south-western Iceland.
That eruption occurred about a month before the Eyjafjallajokull volcano spewed a massive cloud of ash that shut down much of Europe’s airspace for six days, causing widespread travel chaos during the crisis.
Source: Daily Mail