Sunday, August 24, 2014

Iceland lowers aviation risk warning

Two new earthquakes have shaken the Barbardunga volcano in Iceland, which is already under a 'red alert' aviation warning because of fears an eruption.

They are the strongest earthquakes to hit the volcano since seismic activity began on Tuesday.

Authorities said there had not been a major eruption but have closed the airspace in the area as a precaution.

Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted in 2010, producing ash that disrupted air travel across Europe.

The Icelandic Met Office said it recorded earthquakes of magnitude 5.3 and 5 in the early hours of Sunday morning.

It said they were the strongest earthquakes at the Barbardunga volcano since 1996.

Airspace over the site has been closed, but all Icelandic airports currently remain open, authorities say.

Authorities said on Saturday that a small eruption had taken place under the Dyngjujokull ice cap but that there no signs that gases or ashes had broken through the ice.

Geologists reported that about 300 earthquakes had been detected in the area since midnight on Tuesday.

The Eyjafjallajokull eruption in April 2010 caused the largest closure of European airspace since World War Two, with losses estimated at between 1.5bn and 2.5bn euros (£1.3-2.2bn).

Criticism following the strictly enforced shutdown resulted in the UK Civil Aviation Authority relaxing its rules to allow planes to fly in areas with a low density of volcanic ash.

Bardarbunga and Dyngjujokull are part of a large volcano system hidden beneath the 500m-thick (1,600ft) Vatnajokull glacier in central Iceland.

The region, located more than 300km (190 miles) from the capital Reykjavik, has no permanent residents but sits within a national park popular with tourists.

Authorities have previously warned that any eruption could result in flooding north of the glacier.