Iceland seeks to allay disruption fears after volcanic eruption

Iceland’s government has sought to downplay fears that the volcanic eruption on the island this week will lead to the similar levels of disruption caused by similar events in 2010.

Between March and June 2010 a series of volcanic events at Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland caused considerable disruption to air travel across Western Europe.

The disruptions started over an initial period of six days in April 2010. Additional localised disruption continued into May 2010, and eruptive activity persisted until June 2010. The eruption was declared officially over in October 2010, after three months of inactivity, when snow on the glacier did not melt. From 14 to 20 April, ash from the volcanic eruption covered large areas of Northern Europe. About 20 countries closed their airspace to commercial jet traffic and it affected approximately 10 million travellers.

This week a volcano erupted on the Reykjanes peninsula of south-west Iceland after weeks of intense earthquake activity.

About 4,000 people were earlier evacuated from the fishing town of Grindavik and the nearby Blue Lagoon geothermal spa was closed. The eruption started north of the town at 22:17 local time (22:17 GMT), the Icelandic Met Office said. 

However, it is not expected to bring the same level of disruption as the 2010 events.

Iceland’s foreign minister, Bjarni Benediktsson said on X, formerly Twitter, that “there are no disruptions to flights to and from Iceland, and international flight corridors remain open”.

Hallgrímur Indriðason, a journalist from Icelandic state broadcaster RUV, said there was “no threat to air traffic – at least not for now” with Reykjavik’s international Keflavik airport remaining open for the time being.

“The 2010 eruption was different because it erupted under a glacier and when this happens you get this huge explosive ash high up in the air which is very fine and stays up in the air for a long time,” Indriðason told the BBC.

“This is much different. This is a crack [in the ground] with lava flow and the ash doesn’t stay up in the air as much than in previous cases. So unless we had an eruption under the sea – which there is a slim chance of – then there will no impact on air traffic.”