Spectacular volcanic eruption strikes Iceland near capital

A volcano has erupted near Iceland's capital Reykjavik after days of rising earthquake activity in the area, the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) said on Wednesday.

Aerial footage showed lava and smoke spewing from a fissure on the side of the Fagradalsfjall mountain, which last year saw an eruption that lasted six months.

Tourists and residents should avoid the area due to poisonous gases, although there was no immediate risk of damage to critical infrastructure, the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management said in a statement.

A ‘code red’ was declared to prohibit aeroplanes from flying over Fagradalsfjall although helicopters were sent in to survey the situation, the IMO told Reuters.

If the outbreak was confirmed to be similar to the fissures seen last year, the aviation alert would likely be lowered to orange, signalling less danger, an agency spokesperson said.

The Reykjanes Peninsula is a volcanic and seismic hot spot, and the outbreak took place just 25 km (15 miles) from Reykjavik and 15 km from the nation's international airport.

In March last year, lava fountains erupted spectacularly in the area from a fissure 500 to 750 metres (1,640 to 2,460 feet) long, continuing until September and attracting thousands of Icelanders and tourists to the scene.

Located between the Eurasian and the North American tectonic plates, among the largest on the planet, Iceland frequently experiences earthquakes and has high volcanic activity as the two plates move in opposite directions.

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