3rd LD-Writethru: Iceland orders evacuations after volcanic eruption


HELSINKI, May 29 (Xinhua) -- Local authorities have ordered an evacuation of the village of Grindavik and the iconic Blue Lagoon resort in southwest Iceland's Reykjanes Peninsula after a volcano nearby erupted on Wednesday.

The volcano located north of Grindavik started to erupt just before 1 p.m. local time (1100 GMT), which was preceded by several earthquakes, the Meteorological Office said.

The lava fountains have once reached 50 meters high and the length of the fissure has grown from its initial 1 km to an impressive 3.4 km, the office said in a statement.

Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson, a geophysics professor at the University of Iceland, told local radio RUV that this marked its fifth eruption since December and also the most powerful one since its volcanic system became active three years ago.

Noting that the area covered by lava would grow to some five square km, the professor also expected the force to abate as more than half of the accumulated magma underground, over 20 million cubic meters, has already been depleted.

However, the Icelandic Police Commissioner has declared a state of emergency in the affected area, some 55 km southwest of Iceland's capital Reykjavik.

As the fumes from the eruption are expected to reach the capital area late Wednesday, the Icelandic Environmental Agency has recommended residents monitor air quality information on their website, vulnerable people keep windows closed and children avoid sleeping outside during this period.

According to airport operator ISAVIA, the Keflavik Airport located at the tip of the Reykjanes Peninsula, is not expected to be affected by the eruption.

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