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Stay out of Reykjanes caves, people warned

21.02.2020 - 13:27
Mynd með færslu
Library picture of a cave entrance in Iceland. Mynd: Guðmundur Bergkvist - RÚV
The Icelandic Met Office is asking people to stay out of the many caves associated with the volcanic systems on the Reykjanes peninsula. Weekly gas measurements taken yesterday show the presence of potentially life-threatening gases. There was no such indication of dangerous gases a week ago, Met Office natural disaster specialist Kristín Jónsdóttir says.

“It is of course totally fine to walk around the area. It’s a beautiful area and enjoyable to explore. But we are warning against exploring the caves in the area. Certain gases accumulate easily in caves and there is a lot of geothermal activity underneath. We measured yesterday dangerous levels, and a lack of oxygen, in a cave there. So, it is extremely dangerous to go into that cave and whether there are other caves in the area, it is quite likely. That’s why we recommend against people exploring caves there,” Kristín says. 

As seismic activity around Þorbjörn hill and the town of Grindavík has been decreasing recently, why is this happening now? 

“That is a good question. It’s a very complicated danger and there is some variability there in that system. We are monitoring it much better than we have done before and regular gas meter readings have not actually been taken there before. I can’t rule out that this has happened there before at some point. But we measured it yesterday and I can confirm that similar readings were taken at the same places a week ago and the situation was not like this. So some change has taken place and we are now warning about that danger,” Kristín explains. 

Seismic activity in the area is still above average levels, though significantly reduced since late January. The activity is believed to be caused by magma accumulation in the area that is causing the land to rise. How is the situation in the area now? 

“The strain seems to have eased off a bit. It was something that started unusually abruptly compared to what we have seen before in Iceland. But signs of strain are still being recorded, so we are still on our toes in this area,” Kristín says. 

Do the dangerous gases discovered yesterday mean a volcanic eruption is more likely? 

“No, they do not. We first and foremost juts want to warn about this [gas] danger.” 

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