Volcanic ash relentless as new tremors rock Iceland

By Omar Valdimarsson

REYKJAVIK, April 18 (BestGrowthStock) – Powerful tremors from an
Icelandic volcano that has been a menace for thousands of
travellers worldwide rocked the countryside on Sunday as
eruptions hurled a steady stream of ash into the sky.

Ash from the volcano drifted southeast towards Europe,
sparing the capital Reykjavik and other more populated centres
but forcing farmers and their livestock indoors as a blanket of
ash fell on the surrounding areas.

Iceland’s Meterological Office said tremors from the volcano
had grown more intense and had increased from a day ago, but
that the column of steam and ash rising from the volcano had
eased back to 4-5 km (2.5-3 miles) from as high as 11 km when it
started erupting earlier this week.

“We are seeing mixed signals. There are some hints that the
eruption will be decreasing, and others that show it is not
decreasing,” Einar Kjartansson, a geophysicist at the
Meteorological Office, told Reuters.

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One positive sign for people in the area is that there was
no immediate threat of further flooding.

The eruption is taking place under Iceland’s
Eyjafjallajokull glacier, normally a popular hiking ground about
120 km (75 miles) southeast of the capital Reykjavik.

Kjartansson believes the volcano has melted about 10 percent
of the glacier, but melting might have slowed in recent hours.

However, that does not mean Europe will see great relief
from the plume of ash that is choking the upper atmosphere with
tiny particles of glass and pulverised rock, threatening jet
engines and airframes.

The glacier on top of the volcano is about 200 metres (650
ft) thick — thinner than many glaciers atop other volcanoes
that have erupted in recent times. That means there is less ice,
and water, to suffocate the eruptions and resulting steam.

“It might mean more intense ash production,” Kjartansson
said.

It still could take months for the volcano to burn through
the rest of the glacier, to a point where the steam and ash
would turn instead into lava, he said.

DAY TURNS TO NIGHT
Vidir Reynisson, of the Civil Protection Department, said
some areas near the volcano were pitchblack during daylight
hours.

“There are places where you can’t even see the palm of your
hand,” he said.

His department has recommended people stay indoors, although
some have evacuated voluntarily. They also advise people to keep
their houses heated, which helps keep the ash outside.

Many farmers, he said, remained to tend their livestock and
some, assisted by rescue squads, were on rooftops sweeping off
the accumulated ash to prevent roofs from caving in.

Meanwhile, travellers stranded in Iceland due to limited
flights out of the international Keflavik airport started to get
approval on travel to northern Norway. Flights to the United
States remained unaffected.

Iceland sits on a volcanic hotspot in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge
and has relatively frequent eruptions, though most occur in
sparsely populated areas and pose little danger to people or
property. The last eruption took place in 2004.

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(Additional reporting and writing by Mia Shanley in
Stockholm, editing by Michael Roddy)

Volcanic ash relentless as new tremors rock Iceland