Catastrophic ERUPTION – Race Against TIME

Authorities in Iceland are scrambling to redirect a stream of lava from a nearby volcano before it melts its way through a power plant.

The town of Grindavík sits in the shadow of an ongoing volcanic eruption, and the rivers of lava are threatening its infrastructure. While danger from lava is not an unusual problem for Icelanders, the situation in Grindavík has turned urgent as the molten rock is rolling on a course that will take it right through the Svartsengi Power Plant.

Grindavík sits in the shadow of Þorbjörn, a step-sided volcano that began its current eruption in late May, which is its fifth eruption since December of last year. The lava flows from the volcano have been unusually vigorous when measured against the mountain’s recent record. Rivers of rock have swamped important roads and threatened quite a bit of infrastructure both in the town and in the areas surrounding it.

Emergency response teams in the area have been using fire trucks to spray water on the advancing lava, to cool it off and help control its direction. This simple method is an effective way of controlling lava flows, but it requires copious amounts of water and requires quite a lot from the pumps on the trucks. This strategy is the town’s first line of defense for the power plant.

On top of that, authorities have begun construction of barriers around infrastructure in the town, including the power plant. They are built from soil and gravel, and will reach up to twenty-six feet tall, and are expected to be completed in the next few weeks. They are being funded through a Parliamentary directive that appropriates property tax funds to the project. The hope is that the barriers will direct the lava flow away from infrastructure, or stop it in its tracks before it can do much damage. The government has also allocate $3.6 million for the purchase of specialized lava cooling equipment.