Icelanders reach out to residents hit by volcano
By Hallgrimur Indriadsson and Lennart Simonsson May 25, 2011, 9:28 GMT
Reykjavik - Perhaps thinking that being at the epicentre of a worldwide financial storm was not enough suffering for Iceland, Mother Nature has once again visited another plague upon the north Atlantic nation.
A volcano has erupted on Iceland, just over a year after another Icelandic volcano caused major travel disruptions across Europe and left its people with a massive ashfall.
The Grimsvotn volcano began to erupt at the weekend producing an ash cloud that as of Monday even darkened skies over Reykjavik, 250 kilometres to the volcano's west.
The worst affected areas lie south-west of the volcano, where the ash is in places 10 centimetres deep.
In combination with strong winds the ash has created 'an ash blizzard,' said Teitur Arason at the Icelandic Meteorological Office said. Being outdoors for any long spell requires wearing protective masks and goggles.
Farmers who raise sheep and other livestock have suffered, as the eruption hit during the ongoing lambing season.
'I have around 300 sheep and now have around 480 lambs,' farmer Helgi Johannsson told broadcaster RUV. About 90 per cent of his animals were still in the ash covered fields.
Although samples suggest the ash is not as toxic for animals as that generated in other eruptions, animals have suffocated or fallen into ditches after being blinded by the ash.
Rescue and search teams have been deployed to help farmers feed their livestock, and provide food and water to other residents.
Expressing sympathy with those affected, Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir said: 'We will do everything we can to help the people who are having difficulties because of the eruption.'
Plans included deploying holidaying students and the unemployed to help with rebuilding after the ashfall has ceased.
The tourist industry has not experienced cancellations for the upcoming summer season, but halted flights have impacted groups planning to come to Iceland, Erna Hauksdottir, director of the Icelandic Travel Industry Association.
The country's main international airports reopened Monday, she noted.
Grimsvotn is the country's most active volcano. Recent eruptions were in 2004, 1998 and 1996 but the current eruption is considered its strongest in 50 years.
Memories of previous eruptions have also resurfaced, not only of last year's eruption at Eyjafjallojokull.
Johannsson recalled the words of an old woman he knew, who experienced the massive eruption at the Katla volcano in 1918.
'She said that she hoped that my generation would never have to go through such thing. But as far as I can tell we're experiencing that,' Johannsson said.