Iceland continues to wait for a volcanic eruption.
As of Thursday, the Icelandic Met Office, the country’s weather service, warned that there was a “significant likelihood of a volcanic eruption in the coming days.”
The situation was unchanged from prior days, the weather service said, with hundreds of earthquakes reported in the area every day.
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.
The increased seismic activity and the formation of an underground river of magma have led the authorities in to declare a state of emergency and to evacuate the small fishing town of Grindavik, where more than 3,000 people live. Some residents have been briefly allowed to return to gather some belongings, but videos circulating on social media show deep cracks in the roads.
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.
There didn’t seem to be an immediate danger to people outside the direct vicinity of the volcano, according to Josef Dufek, the director of the Center for Volcanology at the University of Oregon.
There is a long history of volcanic activity in Iceland, a country of fewer than 400,000 people and about 130 volcanoes. Most of the 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. “Typically, the impact of volcanic eruptions is confined to specific, localized areas.” In the past, it continued, eruptions in the same area did not affect flights to and from Iceland.
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 any indications of sudden changes.
Julie Weed contributed reporting.