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Iceland Mag

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Massive landslide fell into Öskjuvatn lake, central highlands. Traffic to the area is closed down

By Staff

  • Areal view of Askja region. Around 24 million cubic metres (847.552.001 cubic feet) fell from the slopes of Mount Askja and into Öskjuvatn lake, causing a great tidal wave. The much smaller Lake Víti volcano crater can be seen to the left. Photo/Jara Fatíma Brynjólfsdóttir pilot with Mýflug Air

A massive landslide fell into Öskjuvatn lake, central highlands, just before midnight on July 21st. All traffic to the Askja region has been closed down until hazard assessments are concluded. The Civil Protection in Iceland and local police travelled to the area yesterday evening to assess the situation.

 

Around 24 million cubic metres (847.552.001 cubic feet) fell from the slopes of Mount Askja and into Öskjuvatn lake, causing a great tsunami wave which travelled into Víti crater. Water levels in the lake also rose over two metres (6.5 feet) following the landslide.

The mudslide was accompanied by shallow earthquake activity and a large cloud of smoke. Rapidly melting snow is thought to have triggered the disaster.

According to Hjörleifur Finnsson, a park ranger in Vatnajökull National Park, it was the southeast rim of Mount Askja that collapsed.

The Askja region is located in the Northeast part of the Vatnajökull National Park. The name refers to a complex of calderas within the surrounding Dyngjufjöll mountains (that peak at 1,510 metres). Mount Askja is a stratovolcano found within the area and was virtually unknown until a tremendous eruption began in 1875.

Öskjuvatn is a large lake that fills much of the smaller caldera that formed after the 1875 eruption. It is one of Iceland’s deepest lakes.

Víti is a smaller explosion crater, situated Northeast of Öskjuvatn. It contains a mineral-rich, opaque blue water which stays a comfortable 22 degrees Celsius (72 Fahrenheit) all year around. 

Update (15.59): It is now clear that around 60 million cubic metres (2.118.880.002 cubic feet) fell from the slopes of Mount Askja.

The Víti crater in Askja before the landslide. Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson

 

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