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Volcano erupts near Iceland’s capital in seismic hot spot

Volcano erupts near Iceland's capital in seismic hot spot

A volcano erupted on a mountain near the Icelandic capital Reykjavik, the Icelandic meteorological office said, on Wednesday, days after high earthquake activity in the region.

Images and live broadcasts by local news outlets MBL and RUV showed lava and smoke rising from a fissure in the ground on the side of Mount Fagradalsfjall, which last year saw a six-month eruption.

The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management said in a statement that tourists and residents should avoid the area due to the toxic gases, although there is no immediate risk of damage to critical infrastructure.

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The organization told Reuters that a “code red” had been announced to prevent aircraft from flying over the site, despite sending helicopters to survey the situation.

A spokesperson for the agency said that if the outbreak is confirmed to be similar to the one seen last year, the flight alert will likely be lowered to orange, indicating a lower risk.

“For the time being, there are no disruptions to flights to and from Iceland and international flight lanes remain open,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The Reykjanes Peninsula is a volcanic and seismic hot spot, and the outbreak occurred 25 kilometers (15 miles) from Reykjavik and 15 kilometers from the country’s international airport.

In March last year, lava fountains spectacularly erupted in the area from a 500- to 750-meter (1,640 to 2,460-foot) fissure, lasting into September and attracting thousands of Icelanders and tourists to the scene.

Unlike the eruption of the ice-capped Eyjafjallajokull volcano in 2010, which halted about 100,000 flights and forced hundreds of Icelanders to leave their homes, this eruption is not expected to spew much ash or smoke into the atmosphere.

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Located between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, among the largest tectonic plates on the planet, Iceland often experiences earthquakes and has high volcanic activity as the two plates move in opposite directions.

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Additional reporting by Nikolai Skidsgaard and Terry Solsvik; Editing by Toby Chopra and Lisa Shumaker

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.