Unrest in Katla volcano prompts caution – Authorities worry about tourists in the area

Unrest in Katla volcano prompts caution – Authorities worry about tourists in the area

The National Commissioner of Police and the District Commissioner of Police in South Iceland are keeping a close watch on the recent seismic unrest in Katla volcano, situated under the Myrdalsjokull icecap, according to a Visir report.

The constant and rapidly rising number of tourist visiting Iceland in recent years has created a sort of glitch in the evacuation procedure in case of an eruption. The likelihood of an eruption is considerable after a new series of tremors in the area in the last few days and further, an increase in quakes and tremors in the last few months, peaking in September when the Civil Protection Service issued a Yellow Alert points to seismic activity under the glacier. Katla is one of the bigger calderas in Iceland so the urgency of a solid evacuation plan is great.

“Times have changed, we are foremost worried about tourist venturing around, and even on top of the volcanoes, when there is a likelihood of an eruption like now” a police officer told Visir reporter.

The Civil Protection Service along with The National Commissioner of Police and the District Commissioner of Police in South Iceland held a meeting recently and issued a statement saying that the tremors and unrest around Katla volcano has been unusually frequent since august, with three major earthquakes larger than 4 on the Richter scale a number of quakes larger than three on the scale.
The likelihood of an eruption is great and as the volcano is underneath a glacier, floods on a grand scale are a major concern in case of an eruption. There are detailed evacuation procedures in place but the odds are that those will not reach the tourists visiting the area.
“We are facing a completely new situation. When the evacuation plan for a Katla eruption was made there were estimated around three to four hundred people over night in the town of Vik, there was space to house this number when evacuating the lower part of the town. Now there are around 1100 people there every night in wintertime. The scale of a possible evacuation plan changed drastically since the current evacuation procedure was made”

Authorities are working on a new evacuation plan accordingly, including an automatic emergency SMS text message to all mobile phones in the area in case of an eruption.

Featured image from Wikipedia, shows a Katla eruption in 1918. Katla is one of the largest volcanoes in Iceland, situated to the north of the town of Vik and to the east of the smaller glacier Eyjafjallajokull who’s underlying volcano famously erupted in 2011 bringing air traffic in Europe to a halt. Eyjafjallajokull has been known to erupt one to two years prior to Katla in the past. Katla’s peak reaches 1,512 metres and is partially covered by the Myrdalsjökull glacier. The system of magma chambers has an area of 595 km2 (230 sq mi) and the Eldgja canyon is part of the same volcanic system as Eyjafjallajokull.

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