Authorities evacuated hundreds of people after a volcano erupted beside a glacier in southern Iceland, Iceland's civil protection agency said on Sunday, but there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.
The eruption occurred beside the Eyjafjallajokull glacier, the fifth largest in Iceland. Authorities initially said the eruption was below the glacier, triggering fears that it could lead to flooding from glacier melt, but scientists conducting an aerial survey in daylight located the eruption and said it did not occur below ice.
"The eruption is a small one," said Agust Gunnar Gylfason, a risk analyst at the Civil Protection Department.
"An eruption in and close to this glacier can be dangerous due to possible flooding if the fissure forms under the glacier," he said. "That is why we initiated our disaster response plan."
The last time the volcano erupted was in the 1820s.
Scientists can see lava flows in the half-mile long fissure, and authorities are watching for further activity.
Authorities evacuated some 450 people in the area 100 miles southeast of the capital, Reykjavik, as a precaution, said Vidir Reynisson, the department manager for the Icelandic Civil Protection Department.
A state of emergency has been declared in communities near the 100 square mile glacier, and three Red Cross centers were set up for evacuees in the village of Hella.
The Icelandic Civil Aviation Administration has ordered aircraft to stay 120 nautical miles away from the volcano area, essentially closing it off.
Three Icelandair flights from the U.S. — departing from Seattle; Boston; and Orlando, Florida — bound for Keflavik airport in Reykjavik were turned back to Boston. All domestic flights were also canceled until further notice, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service reported.
Keflavik international airport, Reykjavik airport and Akureyri airport are all closed due to the possibility of ash getting into engines of the planes. The only airport that is open is Egilsstadir airport in the eastern part of the country as a back up international airport.
Gudjon Arngrimsson, a spokesman for Icelandair, said he could not immediately comment.
A European volcanic island in the North Atlantic, Iceland is largely an arctic desert with mountains, glaciers and volcanoes and agricultural areas in the lowlands close to the coastline.