Inside Icelands volcano ghost town being ripped apart by earthquakes

Tectonic activity damages roads in Iceland

Volcanic activity fears have flared in the Icelandic town of Grindavik, where roads are now laced with smoking cracks thanks to a succession of earthquakes.

Magma is swelling roughly 500 metres below Grindavik’s surface, which was, until recently, buzzing with activity from its 3,000 residents.

On Wednesday, November 15 alone, officials detected 800 tiny earthquakes, with recent clusters of activity creating up to 1,000 separate tremors, causing a series of haunting screeches across the area.

The community – some members of which fear they are “done for” following an eruption – has evacuated with essential belongings, leaving behind a small concentration of emergency workers minding the buildings and watching as the volcanic activity punches more cracks in the ground.

They are unable to do much more, as experts have warned the town’s destruction looms.

Pictures taken on the town’s outskirts show what appears to be white smoke emanating from cracks in the ground, with ridges created by the tremors rising over two feet tall.

A series of breaks in the asphalt on a main road would have stopped traffic in Grindavik, but the photos show empty streets dotted by individual emergency workers.

The cracks extend dozens of metres across the town, and, on top of being several feet high, are similarly wide across the ground, exposing deep trenches.

Icelandic authorities have warned the Reykjanes peninsula – the area in which the town is located – will only see this type of activity increase, and potential visitors have been told to keep an eye on travel warnings.

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As fears continue to ramp up over an imminent eruption, the Icelandic Met Office (IMO) said activity experienced by Grindavik would ripple across the peninsula.

Speaking to the BBC, the IMO’s Dr Matthew Roberts said: “We expect to see volcanic eruptions along the peninsula, not just repeatedly in the same location.”

Instability, Dr Roberts said, could last for decades, and officials have issued a state of emergency but the coming eruption likely won’t be as explosive as people expect.

He told the broadcaster that, while the town appeared to have been hit “like an underground freight train”, over the weekend, the incoming eruption wouldn’t prove too typical of those seen in Iceland before.

He said: “We’re not expecting an explosive eruption.”

But that won’t mean the town escapes unscathed, as he warned residents would have to wait weeks before they can return to their homes.

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