Tourists are injured near an Icelandic volcanic eruption


Three tourists were injured in Iceland on Wednesday night as they traversed rugged terrain to a volcanic eruption that draws amazed onlookers to its hot lava fountains, a spokeswoman for Iceland’s civil protection agency said.

The injuries, including a broken ankle, were not serious, but they underlined the risks tourists face if they try to walk up to the lava flowing from the Fagradalsfjall volcano in the south-west of the Iceland, spokeswoman Hjordis Gudmundsdottir said in an interview on Thursday.

“We tell people that although we know it’s spectacular and there’s nothing like it, we have to be careful and we have to prepare before we go,” Ms Gudmundsdottir said.

The hike to and from the area, she said, takes about five hours and, since the volcano erupted last year, can involve crossing lava that is still brittle and hot below the surface. Officials also warned of sudden gaseous pollution near the site of the eruption.

“We’re trying to tell people this isn’t just a walk in the park,” Ms Gudmundsdottir said. ‚ÄúPeople have to be careful and well dressed and well-shod. We try to tell both Icelanders and our foreign friends.

The tourist with a broken ankle was airlifted to a hospital, Ms Gudmundsdottir said. The other two were helped down from the volcano in vehicles, she said.

Ms Gudmundsdottir said she expected more tourists to arrive in the coming days, especially after dark when fiery lava breaks off Iceland’s night sky.

“We don’t know how many people have been there, but we know there are a lot, and we know the next few days will be more,” she said. “We know we can’t say, ‘Stay away.’ We don’t lock the place.

Lava began flowing from a fissure in the ground around Fagradalsfjall, near the town of Grindavik on the Reykjanes Peninsula, on Wednesday, the Icelandic government said in a statement. The eruption occurred after intense seismic activity over the past few days, the statement said.

The government said the eruption was considered “relatively low” and the risk to populated areas and critical infrastructure was low. Fissure eruptions do not typically result in large explosions or significant columns of flying ash in the stratosphere, the statement said.

But the government said it was still advising people not to visit the site. The eruption site “is a dangerous area and conditions can change quickly,” the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management said in a statement Thursday.

He warned that toxic gases can build up when the wind subsides, new lava fountains can open up without warning, and lava that builds up can quickly flow across the ground.

The fissure is about 14.5 km from a major transport hub, Keflavik Airport, and about 26 km from the Reykjavik metropolitan area, the government said.

“We had been expecting an eruption somewhere in this area since the series of earthquakes started last weekend,” Katrin Jakobsdottir, Iceland’s prime minister, said in a statement. “We will of course continue to monitor the situation closely and now we also benefit from the experience gained during the eruption last year.”

There is a long history of volcanic activity in Iceland, which has over 30 active volcanoes. The country straddles two tectonic plates, which are divided by an undersea mountain range that oozes hot molten rock, or magma. Earthquakes occur when magma passes through plates.

Keflavik Airport said on its website on Thursday that there were no disruptions to arriving or departing flights.

Icelandair also sought to reassure passengers that its flights had not been disrupted as it promoted the volcanic eruption on Facebook, writing on Wednesday that “the Icelandic summer has gotten hotter!” It included a link to a live stream from the eruption site.