Volcano erupts under Iceland glacier, hundreds flee

14 Apr 2010 15:35:48 GMT

* Floods from melting ice threaten highway, bridges

* Authorities evacuate 700 from their homes

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REYKJAVIK, April 14 (Reuters) - A volcanic eruption in Iceland spewed black smoke and white steam into the air on Wednesday and partly melted a glacier, setting off a major flood that threatened to damage roads and bridges.

The plume was seen rising from a crater under about 200 metres (660 feet) of ice at the Eyjafjallajokull glacier, close to the site of another eruption which started last month and died down only on Monday, Icelandic state radio reported.

The Icelandic Civil Defence Authority ordered 700 people to evacuate their homes and said melting ice from the glacier had caused big floods that threatened to damage a highway and several bridges, an official told Reuters.

"We have had to dig some holes in the road so the flood could pass through and ease pressure on the bridges," Rognvaldur Olafsson, who is leading the rescue effort, told Reuters.

Three large holes which were visible on the glacier in the morning had turned into a continuous rift running for about two kilometres through the ice, he added.

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

In March, another volcano erupted near the Eyjafjallajokull glacier but 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, though most occur in sparsely populated areas and pose little danger to people or property. The last eruption before that in March was in 2004. (Reporting by Omar Valdimarsson; writing by Nicholas Vinocur, editing by Tim Pearce)


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