* Tremors shake Iceland as volcano spews more ash into sky
* Ash column above volcano now lower at a height of 4-5 km
* Farmers, livestock moved indoors as ash falls
* Icelandic airlines now running flights to Norway
(Adds quotes from President, AccuWeather, more detail)
By Omar Valdimarsson
REYKJAVIK, April 18 Powerful tremors from an
Icelandic volcano that has been a menace for travellers across
Europe shook the countryside on Sunday as eruptions hurled a
steady stream of ash into the sky.
Ash from the volcano drifted southeast towards the European
continent, sparing the capital Reykjavik and other more
populated centres but forcing farmers and their livestock
indoors as a blanket of ash fell on the surrounding areas.
"We are all doing our utmost to make sure that the farming
community in this area survives this disaster," Icelandic
President Olafur Grimsson told Reuters Television.
He said it was difficult to assess the impact on tourism in
the country, which is only just emerging from a deep recession,
but that recent events had put Iceland in the spotlight and that
the country might even lure in more visitors.
"What we are experiencing here in Iceland is forces of
nature on display... And that is a spectacle -- the combination
of volcanic eruption and glaciers you cannot see anywhere else
in the world," he said.
Iceland's Meterological Office said tremors from the volcano
had grown more intense but that the column of ash rising from
the volcano had eased back to 4-5 km (2.5-3 miles) from as high
as 11 km when it started erupting earlier this week.
"We are seeing mixed signals. There are some hints that the
eruption will be decreasing, and others that show it is not
decreasing," said Einar Kjartansson, a geophysicist at the
The eruption is taking place under Iceland's
Eyjafjallajokull glacier, normally a popular hiking ground about
120 km (75 miles) southeast of the capital Reykjavik.
Kjartansson believes the volcano has melted about 10 percent
of the glacier, but melting might have slowed in recent hours.
However, that does not mean Europe will see any great relief
from the plume of ash that is choking the upper atmosphere with
tiny particles of glass and pulverised rock, threatening jet
engines and airframes.
The glacier on top of the volcano is about 200 metres (650
ft) thick -- thinner than many glaciers atop other volcanoes
that have erupted in recent times. That means there is less ice,
and water, to suffocate the eruptions and resulting steam.
"It might mean more intense ash production," Kjartansson
It still could take months for the volcano to burn through
the rest of the glacier, to a point where the steam and ash
would turn instead into lava, he said.
DAY TURNS TO NIGHT
Vidir Reynisson, of the Civil Protection Department, said
some areas near the volcano were pitchblack during daylight
"There are places where you can't even see the palm of your
hand," he said.
Many farmers remained to tend their livestock and some,
assisted by rescue squads, were on rooftops sweeping off the
accumulated ash to prevent roofs from caving in. There were no
disruptions to electricity or water supplies in the area.
Meanwhile, travellers stranded in Iceland due to limited
flights out of the international Keflavik airport got approval
on travel to Norway.
Icelandair said it was running five flights to Trondheim in
Norway with a total of 800 passengers while Iceland Express flew
once. Flights to and from the United States remained unaffected.
But more delays and diversions could be in store for Europe.
U.S.-based forecaster AccuWeather said winds at the level of
the ash plume were expected to continue steering it from Iceland
into northern Britain and southern Scandinavia through Monday.
The winds are seen shifting farther south Tuesday and
Wednesday, sending any ash farther south and putting Germany and
the Netherlands at greater risk, it said.
Iceland sits on a volcanic hotspot in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge
and has relatively frequent eruptions, though most occur in
sparsely populated areas and pose little danger to people or
property. The last eruption took place in 2004.
(Writing and additional reporting by Mia Shanley in
Stockholm, editing by Dominic Evans)