“The worst is over,” said Icelandic Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir today, “and now the clean-up can begin. Our geoscientists say that the eruption is waning day by day and that the problems arising in our neighbouring countries as a result of volcanic ash should be resolved quickly.”
Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, Minister of the Interior Ögmundur Jónasson, and National Police Commissioner Haraldur Jóhannessen travelled around the area of South Iceland that has been hardest hit by falling ash since the Grímsvötn volcano began to erupt on Saturday evening. The impact of the eruption is largely limited to a small area of Iceland. Elsewhere, daily life has continued as usual.
The Prime Minister expressed her admiration for the 1,000 South Iceland residents affected by the volcano, citing their optimism and perseverance, and thanked civil defence and volunteer rescue squad personnel for a well-organised and well-executed effort. On Friday the authorities plan to appraise the damage sustained by farmers and tourism operators in South Iceland. “Iceland has been struck by a natural disaster, and the Government is already preparing a number of measures to assist residents, clean up the areas affected by volcanic ash, and return farming and other economic pursuits to normal,” said the Prime Minister at the conclusion of her visit.
According to geoscientists, the Grímsvötn eruption is diminishing day by day. It is a phreatic eruption that generates large amounts of ash. The ice surrounding the eruption vent melts, and the water in the Grímsvötn lake pulverises the volcanic debris, creating the ash. Every second, about 100 tonnes of volcanic debris is expelled from the volcano, as opposed to 10-20,000 tonnes per second on Sunday, at the peak of the eruption. The plume of ash is now 3-5 km high, down from 8-10 km at this time yesterday and 15-20 km at the height of the eruption. The ash cloud is not expected to extend beyond Iceland in the days to come; therefore, it can be assumed that the ash in the upper atmosphere that is currently disturbing air traffic will disperse or precipitate out and fall to Earth soon.
Air traffic to and from Iceland resumed yesterday and today, and all foreign travellers who were unable to leave the country have now returned home. In the early phase of the eruption, every possible effort was made to ensure travellers' safety and well-being, and no accidents or mishaps have been reported. The tourism authorities are of the opinion that this year's tourist season will be as strong as previously projected and that Iceland can expect a record number of travellers to the country during the year.
Below is a map of the area of Iceland most strongly affected by volcanic ash from Grímsvötn. This part of South Iceland is home to some 1,000 inhabitants.