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An Icelandic town is evacuated after a volcanic eruption sends lava into nearby homes

A view of the plume of gas lighted up by the lava from the erupting volcano seen from Suðurstrandavegur, the road that leads to Grindavík, Iceland, on Sunday.
Marco Di Marco
/
AP
A view of the plume of gas lighted up by the lava from the erupting volcano seen from Suðurstrandavegur, the road that leads to Grindavík, Iceland, on Sunday.

Lava from a volcanic eruption in southwestern Iceland has streamed into a nearby town, engulfing homes and forcing the evacuation of local residents.

The Icelandic Meteorological Office said the eruption began just before 8:00 a.m. local time Sunday about a half mile from the town of Grindavík after a series of intense earthquakes.

A second fissure opened after noon Sunday and sent lava flows into the town, officials said.

Iceland's president, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, said in an address to the nation on Sunday that a "daunting period of upheaval" had begun for those in the Reykjanes peninsula.

"We continue to hope for as good an outcome as possible, in the face of these tremendous forces of nature," he said.

This is the second time in a month that a volcano has erupted just outside Grindavík, a coastal town about 25 miles from the Icelandic capital of Reykjavík.

People watch from the north as the volcano erupts near Grindavík, Iceland.
Marco Di Marco / AP
/
AP
People watch from the north as the volcano erupts near Grindavík, Iceland.

An eruption on December 18 sent lava spewing into the air, but residents had already been told to leave due to heightened seismic activity.

Iceland's government said Sunday that Grindavík had been evacuated early that morning and that the eruption isn't expected to reach other populated areas.

So far no flights have been disrupted, and officials are monitoring threats to infrastructure. At least three homes have either burned down or been overtaken by lava, according to the Icelandic broadcaster RUV.

The government also said the eruption doesn't present a threat to life.

A police car blocks the access to the road that leads to Grindavík.
Marco Di Marco / AP
/
AP
A police car blocks the access to the road that leads to Grindavík.

But in his speech, Jóhannesson offered his sympathy to the loved ones of Lúðvík Pétursson, a man who went missing in a work accident in Grindavík last week.

According to Sky News, the 50-year-old Pétursson was filling crevasses formed by volcanic activity and earthquakes when he fell in a crack that had opened after last month's eruption.

Iceland is a hotspot for seismic activity, with 32 active volcanoes. A volcano erupts roughly every five years in the country, though eruptions have occurred more frequently recently.

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