A small eruption under the Mýrdalsjökull glacier may have caused flooding that has shut down Route 1 in the southern part of Iceland. No deaths or injuries have been reported. Damage to property has not yet been fully estimated, but the main highway has been heavily damaged.
RÚV reports that the eruption may have begun late last night under the south Iceland glacier, just east of Eyjafjallajökull. When eruptions occur under glaciers, the tremendous heat and pressure melts the ice and can, in some cases, send it down the mountains, where it can strike with great force. The flooding caused from this eruption has effectively shut down Route 1 in the south of the country, and it is reported that the highway has been greatly damaged by the waters.
Emergency officials have helped in the evacuation effort, most of it centred around the small village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur, where some 200 people have sought shelter. Officials advise the general public and tourists alike to heed government warnings to stay away from the area and, if they are nearby, to be aware of the smell of sulphur coming from rivers – this could be a sign of toxic sulphurate gas.
Geologist Freysteinn Sigmundsson told RÚV that if it was an eruption, it wasn’t a major one. “This is not the so-called Katla Eruption that everyone has been waiting for,” he said, referring to the oft-speculated-upon megaeruption that some have posited Iceland is due to receive. “If it is an eruption, it’s a very small one.”
As it is, Route 1 east of Vík will remain closed for the time being, and authorities will be keeping people out of the area. Meanwhile, officials will be helping locals seek shelter, and scientists will be monitoring the situation closely.