Search & rescue teams were called out when lava flow suddenly increased and started flowing into Nátthagi again around midday. The lava reached Nátthagi in just 20 minutes. People were asked to leave the danger area and most were happy to do so.
Bogi Adolfsson, leader of Grindavík's Þorbjörn S&R team, says between 200 and 300 people were in the area when the evacuation order was made. “90 percent of them are of course just polite and nice people and hang back to wait for instructions, but then among them are those who are difficult and then the police take over.”
Were people really in danger? “Well, under normal circumstances nobody would probably have been in danger, but the danger with it is that people are quick to get used to things. There needs to be sort of 'childcare', if one can word it that way.”
The volcano site was not closed for long, as search & rescue workers were quick to assess the situation and the risk. The A-trail remained closed, but others were opened up again yesterday afternoon. There was too much gas pollution to allow people onto trail A.
“We [in the rescue team] of course have meters, masks, and more, and we back away when the gas meter goes off and see what it does. Others, though, walk closer,” Bogi explains. “And one can understand that, because it’s exciting. On the other hand, people need to also think about common sense.”
It is rare to see anyone with as little common sense as the person visible standing on the edge of the erupting crater in the video above, shot at around 10.00 yesterday morning. A coastguard helicopter air lifted two people from the volcano area yesterday, but it is not known whether the person in the video above was one of them.
Helgi Einarsson, the deputy leader of Þorbjörn, told RÚV he does not know more about the incident than he saw in the media, but that he is always shocked to see people put themselves at great risk.
Asked if more signs are needed to warn people against climbing the erupting volcano and its lava field, Helgi says: “One would think there would be no need to warn people against walking on newly hardened lava, but apparently there is.”
Volcanologist Ármann Höskuldsson says it is quite likely the natural events of yesterday morning will occur again and again. When the slope is towards Nátthagi, the lava will flow that way. Magma bubbles will repeatedly form and burst, with the same result as yesterday.
Ármann says the explanation for the recent nine-day pause is simple: the magma ran under the hardened shell in Geldingadalir and built up pressure. On Saturday, that pressure was too much and lava fountains broke through in the north of the area.
“Now, what happened this morning,” Ármann said yesterday, “is that the magma bubble that stretches here to the south burst. The lava holding it down opened and the molten lava came out very quickly, as we sat this morning, and on into Nátthagi.”
Ármann says the large balloons of magma are a way for the volcano to spread lava faster and further than it otherwise could, given its steady production of just five to ten cubic metres of new lava per second almost since the start, back in March. There is no indication the rate of lava production at the volcano has changed, despite its frequent fluctuations in activity.