‘Let’s Stay Calm,’ Reykjanesbær Mayor Advises

Keilir mountain.

Keilir mountain. mbl.is/​Hari

Vala Hafstað

The mayor of Reykjanesbær, Southwest Iceland, Kjartan Kjartanson, sent the residents of Reykjanesbær a letter yesterday, reiterating that town authorities are constantly monitoring developments of the seismic activity near Fagradalsfjall mountain. Scientists have not ruled out the chance of an eruption being imminent in the area.

“The tone of the letter,” he tells Morgunblaðið , “was just, Let’s stay calm. Let’s not make a bigger deal of this than we have reason to do, based on what the specialists say.”

Reykjanesbær Mayor Kjartan Már Kjartansson.

Reykjanesbær Mayor Kjartan Már Kjartansson. mbl.is/Sigurður Bogi

Residents had expressed their dissatisfaction on Facebook, claiming there was a lack of information. “It’s perfectly normal for people to be worried,” Kjartan states,” and what we’re saying is that we [the town authorities], too, are worried…This is what the situation is like, and it can change in an hour.” He noted that town authorities have no more information than what they read in the media.

In the letter, which was posted in a Reykjanesbær Facebook group, Kjartan states that in the event of pollution from volcanic gases, residents would be thoroughly instructed how to react. “Perhaps it would be best for people to remain indoors and keep their windows closed,” he writes.

If evacuation were needed, there would likely be ample time for that. Kjartan explains in his letter that scientists have stated a potential eruption would likely be a small or medium-size one.  The amount of lava flow would hardly be on a scale likely to cause damage to infrastructure, although that is certainly hard to predict.

Scientist at the Icelandic Met Office told Morgunblaðið last night that even though it is assumed that a magma intrusion has occurred in the area, that does not mean it would necessarily result in an eruption. More commonly, they state, the magma solidifies and does not make it to the surface.

Chief Superintendent Víðir Reynisson told mbl.is yesterday that if an eruption occurs, it is expected to be a rather small one, with lava flowing only a few kilometers. Based on prediction models, pollution would not be excessive. “It would cause discomfort and lead to reduced air quality,” he stated, “but no more than that.”

As this report was being written, an earthquake of magnitude 3.8 hit the area at 11:05. Its source was 1.2 km south-southwest of Keilir mountain.

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