March 22, 2010 / 4:00 PM / 9 years ago

Active Icelandic volcano may cause bigger eruption

The Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupts in southern Iceland early March 21, 2010. The volcano erupted overnight, forcing hundreds of people to evacuate the area and diverting flights after authorities declared a local state of emergency, officials said on Sunday. REUTERS/Ragnar Axelsson

REYKJAVIK (Reuters) - A volcano spouting lava in the south of Iceland showed signs of increased activity on Monday, leading scientists to warn it could trigger a far more powerful eruption at a nearby geological hotspot.

The eruption near the Eyjafjallajokull glacier, which began shortly before midnight on Saturday, sent steam 4 kilometers up in the air and is gradually intensifying, geophysicist Steinunn Jakobsdottir told a local newspaper.

Another scientist said he was concerned the activity could cause an eruption at Mount Katla, an “enormously powerful” volcano lying under a glacier nearby.

“Eyjafjallajokull hardly makes a move without Mount Katla wanting to get in on the action,” said Pall Einarsson, a geophysicist at the University of Iceland. “It is therefore of utmost importance to watch events carefully.”

An eruption at Mount Katla could melt huge amounts of ice and cause massive floods, potentially affecting a town of 300 people nearby, Einarsson added. Three previous eruptions at Eyjafjallajokull have triggered eruptions at Mount Katla.

On Sunday, rescue teams evacuated 500 people from the rural area around the volcano and police declared a local state of emergency. International flights were diverted because of the risk of interference from ash clouds.

No injuries or damage to property were reported.

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 in Iceland took place in 2004.

Reporting by Omar Valdimarsson, editing by Tim Pearce

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