Volcano erupts in Iceland, first at Eyjafjallajokull glacier since 1820s; US flights diverted

By Gudjon Helgason, AP
Sunday, March 21, 2010

Volcano erupts in Iceland; US flights diverted

REYKJAVIK, Iceland — Authorities evacuated hundreds of people after a volcano erupted beneath a glacier in southern Iceland, Iceland’s civil protection agency said Sunday.

The eruption occurred around 11:30 p.m. Saturday (1930 EDT) beneath the Eyjafjallajokull glacier, the fifth largest glacier in Iceland.The volcano is covered by an ice cap.

Fearing flooding from the glacier melt, authorities evacuated some 400 people in the area 160 kilometers (100 miles) southeast of the capital, Reykjavik, as a precaution but no damage or injuries have been reported, said Vidir Reynisson, the department manager for the Icelandic Civil Protection Department.

A state of emergency has been declared in communities near the 100 square mile (160 kilometers) glacier.

“We do not at this moment know the full extent of the eruption but a team is flying over the site now to evaluate the situation,” said Reynisson.

Three flights from the U.S. — departing from Seattle, Washington; Orlando, Florida and Boston, Massachussetts — were diverted to Boston because of the volcano. All domestic flights were also canceled until further notice, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service Reported.

A European volcanic island in the North Atlantic, Iceland is largely an arctic desert with mountains, glaciers and volcanoes and agricultural areas in the lowlands close to the coastline.

The last time the volcano erupted was in the 1820s.

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