Photo by: Mokslo Sriuba. Wikipedia Commons License. Taken on 16 July 2021.
15 Nov 2023

Iceland is building a wall around a geothermal power plant to protect it from lava


Svartsengi geothermal plant on Iceland

Authorities on Iceland are currently building protective walls around the geothermal power plant Svartsengi to create a dyke as protectio from possible lava flows in case of an eruption in the coming days. 

Updated November 15

According to new stats on Wednesday, 3000 people are currently on excavation order since Friday from the fishing town of Grindavik. Evacuees are residing in temporary accommodation until the risk of a major eruption has passed. Toxic gases are already a concern in the area and will become a much more major hazard should the volcano erupt.  

The BBC was reportedly allowed into the area on Tuesday to document when residents were returning briefly to their homes to collect belongings and pets. However, the reporter crews were told to evacuate the area immediately, "with a government official later reporting that sulphur dioxide was detected in the area".

The BBC also reports that a large dyke is being constructed around the plant to redirect future lava flows, should the nearby volcano erupt.   

The active volcano Fagradalsfjall is located around 6km (3.7 miles) from Grindavik.


Nov 13

Iceland's government is preparing for a possible volcanic eruption. The risk of an eruption is throught ot be increasing by the day. The city of Grindavik is evacuated and considered too dangerous to remain a base for emergency prevention work. 

3000 people evacuated: Iceland prepares for a volcanic eruption - Could European air travel be grounded as in 2010?

According to the icelandic TV station RUV, several possible scenarios were discussed at a special government emergency meeting on Sunday. 

According to SVT.se, a state of emergency has been declared in the area. Iceland's Meteorological Institute has previously warned that lava could at any time start to break through and at any time be flowing up from the sea and on land, just outside of the city of Grindavik. 

Grindavik, home to 4000 residents, was evacuated on Friday November 10, due to the risk of 'fire fountains' and toxic gasses. 

In a speech at the Icelandic parliament, Katrín Jakobsdóttir said Friday’s evacuation of the town was done “with the safety of the residents in mind” and shared her sympathy with the evacuees needing to leave their homes. 

“As we can all imagine, it is a huge decision to ask people to leave their homes at short notice. We all feel how heavy this uncertainty rests on them,” she added. “Efforts are being made to create a space so that residents can pick up the most necessary items in the building, but always with people’s safety as a priority”, write the Guardian on Monday November 13.

Residents have over the weekend been allowed to temporarily return home to gather select belongings and their pets.  

According to the authorities' latest models, magma is flowing in a 15-kilometer-long fissure located 800 meters underground in an area almost below Grindavik.

A total of 880 earthquakes were measured on the Reykjanes peninsula on the weekend. The tremors have been weaker than those recorded on previous nights, which could indicate that an eruption is near.

According to the Guardian, these follow thousands of other earthquakes which have been recorded in recent days, sending warnings of the possibility that the Fagradalsfjall volcano could erupt within days.


The BBC wrote on Monday November 13 that seismic activity has eased in south-west Iceland, but a volcanic eruption is still expected, according to scientists.

Vocanic eruptions are common in Iceland, and most of the time, they do not lead to any major disruption. 

Locals have been upset about the evacuations, and some feel that since eruptions usually occur in less populated areas, evacuating the city of Grindavik of the 4000 residents was "unneccessary". 

"This is one of the biggest evacuations we've ever had. It's a huge incident. It has a great affect on all Icelanders," Aslaug Yngvadottir Tulinius of the Icelandic Red Cross told the BBC.

Grindavik is located 15km / 9,3 miles south of the Keflavik International Airport. On Monday flights were still arriving and departing as normal.


Thousands of flights grounded for a week in 2010

Many people remember what happened at the last large erption in Iceland 13 years ago, and now wonder if a similar disruption could occur again.

 In April 2010, a large ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano eruption at Eyjafjallajokull  led to the cancellation of tens of thousands of flights all over northern Europe. The reason for grounding air traffic was the fear that the ash could damage jet engines. 

The Eyjafjallajokull eruption, caused the largest closure of European airspace since World War II, with losses estimated at between 1.5 to 2.5 billion euros continent-wide.

Many experts now believe a disruption on that level is unlikely.


The volcanic conditions are different from the Eyjafjallajökull eruption

In their article "Iceland eruption: What could the impact be?", the BBC explains that the current situation and the geological conditions are different from the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in April 2010:

"The Eyjafjallajökull eruption of 2010 was quite different as it was associated with a shield volcano topped by a glacier. It was the interaction of the magma with ice and meltwater that made that eruption so explosive and dangerous for aviation. This is not the case for Fagradalsfjall", said Dr Michele Paulatto, volcanologist at Imperial College London.


Cover Photo (Above) by: Mokslo Sriuba. Wikipedia Commons License. Taken on 16 July 2021.

Photo of the Svartsengi Powerplant in Iceland. Photo by James Feller, Flickr. Commons License: