A volcano has erupted in southwestern Iceland for the fifth time since late last year, spewing lava toward the seaside town of Grindavik. Officials said it may be the most vigorous eruption in the area to date.

The eruption began early Wednesday afternoon, sending a plume of hot volcanic ash and gas high into the air and opening a more than two-mile-long fissure along the ground.

As of Wednesday evening, there was “still considerable lava fountaining” on the main part of the fissure, which extended south of the Hagafell mountain, the Icelandic Meteorological Office said.

Gas pollution could affect Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, on Wednesday night into Thursday, it added.

Grindavik is about 30 miles southwest of the capital. Most of the town’s nearly 4,000 residents were evacuated before the volcano’s first eruption in December. The area is also home to one of Iceland’s biggest tourist draws, the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa.

Grindavik, the Blue Lagoon and a nearby power plant were evacuated before midday, according to Iceland’s national broadcaster, RUV. The eruption began at 12:46 p.m. local time, according to the meteorological office.

Barriers built to protect the town held, although there was “significant damage” to local pipes and roads, Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson, a professor of geophysics at the University of Iceland, told RUV. He said it wasn’t surprising that the latest eruption was more powerful than previous ones, because more magma had accumulated.

Volcanic activity isn’t unusual in Iceland, but the eruptions over the past few months have occurred in a zone on the Reykjanes Peninsula that hasn’t been active for 800 years. Once a volcanic rift zone is activated, it’s not unusual for a quick succession of eruptions to take place.

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Wednesday’s eruption was preceded by a series of earthquakes in the area in recent days, the meteorological office said.



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