Bursting a Hot Bubble

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A volcanic eruption began in the region of Iceland’s capital Reykjavik on Monday night, a long-expected event that is threatening towns in the vicinity and could leave hundreds homeless, NBC News reported.

The eruption was detected at 10:17 p.m. local time by the Icelandic Meteorological Office, which had focused its attention on seismic attention in the southwestern Reykjanes peninsula over recent weeks. The sky in the area turned red as molten rock was spewed 300 feet into the air, while a river of lava started flowing toward nearby settlements.

Meanwhile, officials said the volcano has been spewing out “life-threatening toxic gas pollution” since it began erupting, Reuters reported.

The lava flow peaked late Monday night, the climax of a tense saga. For weeks, Icelanders had worried over the activity in the peninsula, where more than 20,000 quakes had been recorded since October. In anticipation of the eruption, authorities declared a state of emergency and closed tourist attractions – including the iconic Blue Lagoon resort – the BBC reported.

The 3,400-inhabitant town of Grindavík was evacuated in November after cracks spitting out steam split up its roads. Underneath, a 6.2-mile tunnel of magma was forming, slowly moving up to the surface.

Even so, earlier this month, seismic activity decreased. Scientists were left wondering over the likelihood of an eruption, which was described recently merely as “possible,” Newsweek reported.

That had offered a glimmer of hope to the families from Grindavík, who wished to return home around Christmas. Now, that prospect is off the table, and the town’s mayor told local media they were in urgent need of housing until at least January.

Meanwhile, the Meteorological Office said the eruption’s intensity was decreasing. However, some scientists warned about unexpected developments, saying the lava river’s flow is unpredictable.

Although Monday’s eruption was the fastest and most powerful in recent years, experts said it would not match the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption that had sent a massive cloud of hot ash into the sky, grounding hundreds of thousands of flights in the Western Hemisphere. The capital’s airport was kept open, albeit suffering delays.

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