Iceland

Icelandic volcano eruption intensifies

15 Apr 2010 11:44:26 GMT

REYKJAVIK, April 15 (Reuters) - A volcanic eruption in Iceland, which has thrown up a 6 km (3.7 mile) high cloud of ash and disrupted air traffic in northern Europe, has grown more intense, an expert said on Thursday.

The eruption under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier -- 10 times more powerful than another one nearby last month -- showed no sign of abating after more than 24 hours of activity, University of Iceland volcanologist Armannn Hoskuldsson said.

"It's becoming more intense, but there will be no lava -- this is purely an explosive eruption," he told Reuters.

To the east of the volcano, thousands of hectares of land were covered by a thick layer of ash, while a cloud was blotting out the sun in some areas along the southern coast of Iceland, local media reported.

Hot fumes from the eruption melted vast amounts of ice on the glacier, Iceland's fifth largest, but flood waters which had caused wide damage to roads and bridges on Wednesday were receding, Hoskuldsson said.

Most of the 700 people who were evacuated from their homes on Wednesday were still huddled at Red Cross emergency centres set up nearby, an official told Reuters.

The cloud of ash from the eruption has hit air travel all over northern Europe, with flights grounded or diverted due to the risk of engine damage from sucking in particles of ash from the volcanic cloud, airport officials said.

Icelandic scientists had measured increased seismic activity near the glacier about two hours before the volcano started to erupt in the early morning on Wednesday, local media reported.

In March, another volcano erupted near the Eyjafjallajokull glacier and caused no casualties.

The volcano, situated beneath Iceland's fifth largest glacier, has erupted five times since Iceland was settled in the ninth century.

Iceland sits on a volcanic hotspot in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and has relatively frequent eruptions, although most occur in sparsely populated areas and pose little danger to people or property. Before March, the last eruption took place in 2004. (Reporting by Omar Valdimarsson; writing by Nicholas Vinocur; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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