A volcano erupted in southwestern Iceland Sunday for the second time in less than a month, sending semi-molten rock spewing toward a nearby settlement.
The eruption just before 8 a.m. came after a swarm of earthquakes near the town of Grindavik, the Icelandic Meteorological Office said. The community was evacuated overnight, Iceland's RUV television reported.
"Lava is flowing a few hundred meters north of the town, this is 400 to 500 meters," Kristín Jónsdóttir from the Icelandic Meteorological Office told Iceland’s RUV television. "Lava flows towards Grindavik."
The 3,800 residents of Grindavik were previously evacuated from their homes in November following a series of earthquakes that led to cracks and openings in the earth between the town and Sýlingarfell, a small mountain to the north. The nearby Blue Lagoon geothermal spa — one of Iceland’s biggest tourist attractions — also closed temporarily. The volcano eventually erupted on Dec. 18.
A volcano erupted for a second time near the town of Grindavik, Iceland, on Jan. 14. The eruption came after a swarm of earthquakes. (Icelandic Civil Defense via Storyful)
Residents were allowed to return to their homes on Dec. 22. In the weeks since then, defensive walls had been placed around the volcano in hopes of directing the magma away from the community. But the walls of the barriers built north of Grindavik have been breached and lava is on the move toward the community, the meteorological office said.
Iceland, which sits above a volcanic hot spot in the North Atlantic, averages an eruption every four to five years. The most disruptive in recent times was the 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, which spewed huge clouds of ash into the atmosphere and closed airspace over parts of Europe.
But Sunday's eruption on the Reykjanes Peninsula, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) southwest of the capital, Reykjavik, isn't expected to release large amounts of ash into the air. Gudjon Helgason, airport operator Isavia’s press officer, said that operations at Keflavík Airport are going on as normal.