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  • 20 August 2014, 20:24

Iceland: Thousands Of Quakes Amid Volcano Fears

Thousands of earthquakes have been recorded in Iceland in recent days, amid concerns one of the country's volcanoes could erupt and cause travel chaos across Europe.

Some 3,000 small earthquakes have occurred since Saturday at the country's largest volcano system, Bardarbunga, which is located under Iceland's largest glacier, Vatnajokull.

Iceland's Meteorological Office said no earthquakes above magnitude three had been recorded in the last 24 hours, and seismologists have said that magma is moving horizontally, rather than vertically.

 Meteorologist Einar Einarsson said earthquakes were happening practically every minute.

"The fact that it is constant in motion and depth is probably good news," he said.

"It doesn't seem to vary a lot - it is concentrated in one area under the glacier."

The country's aviation alert level for the risk of a possible eruption is currently at orange, the second-most severe level.

The risk level was raised on Monday after magma movements were detected around six miles (10km) from the surface.

An area north of the volcano has been evacuated by Iceland's civil protection agency, which said it could not rule out an eruption.

All roads leading into the mostly uninhabited area were closed earlier this week.

Tourists and park rangers who live there during the summer are now being evacuated.

The agency said on its website: "This decision is a safety measure. It cannot be ruled out that the seismic activity in Bardarbunga could lead to a volcanic eruption."

According to the authorities, the area north of the glacier risks being hit by floods as an eruption would melt vast amounts of ice from the glacier, which is located in a national park.

The Vatnajokull National Park is more than 186 miles (300 km) from the capital, Reykjavik, and covers 14% of Iceland.

Airlines were warned about the increased seismic activity on Monday.

In 2010 an ash cloud caused by the eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano shut down much of Europe's airspace for six days.

More than 10 million people were affected.

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