A volcano in southwest Iceland that has long been dormant began erupting Friday night, spilling lava down two sides but officials said it appears small and was not considered a threat to any towns.
The eruption on Reykjanes Peninsula, which began around 8:45 p.m. local time (4:45 p.m. ET) was seen on a web camera and later confirmed, the Icelandic Meteorological Office said in a statement.
“The eruption is considered small at this stage,” it said on Twitter, estimating that the fissure was around 500 meters, or 1,640 feet, long. While a distinct orange glow could be seen in the low cloud on the peninsula.
Early Saturday, the Meteorological Office said the “volcanic activity has somewhat decreased,” and the “lava fountains are small.”
The Department of Emergency Management was not anticipating evacuations because the volcano is in a remote valley, The Associated Press reported.
The department initially urged people on Twitter to “close windows and stay indoors”over fears of “volcanic gas pollution” but on Saturday said “currently, gas pollution is not expected to cause much discomfort for people except close up to the source of the eruption.”
Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir said the eruption was not considered a threat to any towns, but officials were closely monitoring events.
The capital Reykjavík is about 20 miles away.
“As of now it is not considered a threat to surrounding towns,” she wrote in a tweet. “We ask people to keep away from the immediate area and stay safe.”
A volcanic eruption has begun in Fagradalsfjall on the Reykjanes peninsula. We are monitoring the situation closely and as of now it is not considered a threat to surrounding towns. We ask people to keep away from the immediate area and stay safe. https://t.co/iIACfCc31E
— Katrín Jakobsdóttir (@katrinjak) March 19, 2021
The Fagradals Mountain volcano had been dormant for 6,000 years, and the Reykjanes Peninsula hadn’t seen an eruption of any volcano in 781 years, The AP reported.
There had been earthquakes and other seismic activity on that peninsula, but activity in the area of the eruption had been lower in recent days, the meteorological office said in a statement.
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In 2010, a different volcano in a different part of Iceland, Eyjafjallajökull, erupted and spewed volcanic ash that spread and caused massive flight disruptions in Europe and affected travel worldwide.
Phil Helsel is a reporter for NBC News.
Adela Suliman and The Associated Press