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Pet owners forced to abandon animals amid expected volcanic eruption in Iceland

Animals have been abandoned in Iceland as owners were forced to flee (Picture: Getty)
Animals have been abandoned in Iceland as owners were forced to flee (Picture: Getty)

As fears of a volcanic eruption grow in Iceland, residents of a small Icelandic village have been forced to flee their homes and leave their animals behind.

More than 4,000 residents in Grindavík fled with few personal belongings when the warnings were issued – but were furious when they weren’t allowed to bring their pets with them.

It comes as a state of emergency has been declared across Iceland after a series of intense earthquakes has spread magma underneath the earth’s surface.

Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula had been dormant to volcanic activity for 800 years before a 2021 eruption – but it’s trembling once again.

And a post on Facebook from Iceland’s Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management about evacuations has infuriated animal lovers.

The post read: ‘The chief of police in Suðurnes has decided that livestock and domestic animals are not rescued from a defined danger zone due to the earthquakes in Reykjanes, at the moment.’

METRO GRAPHICS Animals abandoned in Iceland as owners flee volcanic eruption Fagradalsfjall, Grindav?k Credit
The village is very close to the volcanic eruption danger zone (Picture:
A closed road due to volcanic activity near Grindavik, Iceland November 11, 2023. Road Administration of Iceland via Facebook/ Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. MANDATORY CREDIT
Many areas around Grindavík are impassable after the volcanic activity spiked (Picture: Reuters)
A general view of damage due to volcanic activity at a golf course, in Grindavik, Iceland November 11, 2023. RUV/Ragnar Visage/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. MANDATORY CREDIT
Some areas of ground near the village have completely broken apart (Picture: Reuters)

After intense outrage from pet owners and others, the department quickly said it would allow residents to collect pets and essential belongings.

They said: ‘This is not an easy decision. This comes with risks and therefore it is very important that everyone involved in it carefully obeys all the instructions of the police that directs this operation and respects the deadlines that will be set.’

Despite the backtrack on their original statement, many locals and others abroad are furious about the decision.

‘Volunteers could be sent to places where there are animals, and remove them. The common citizen is second in hovering. But it’s not cool to leave the animals behind, and the nation will remember that later,’ one said.

Another added: ‘It’s not good that the animals could starve or burn inside.’

Initial reports have indicated that the few families allowed back in to retrieve their animals were successful – though many pets and livestock remain unaccounted for, according to the Iceland Review.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Tobias Seeliger/REX/Shutterstock (12256813d) Fissure eruption in the Geldingadalur valley on Mount Fagradalsfjall near the town of Grindavik on the Reykjanes peninsula in southwest Iceland. Volcano in Geldingadalur valley, Iceland - 24 Mar 2021
Fagradalsfjall last erupted in 2021, when multiple fissures broke through (Picture: Shutterstock)
GRINDAVIK, ICELAND - NOVEMBER 12: Children bring food to police and emergency workers outside Grindavik on November 12, 2023 in Grindavik, Iceland. Iceland has declared a state of emergency after a series of earthquakes with authorities ordering thousands of people to leave the southwestern town of Grindav??k as a precaution.The Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) has said there was a considerable risk of a volcanic eruption. (Photo by Micah Garen/Getty Images)
Children have been handing out food to officers stationed near the village (Picture: Getty)
A line of cars queued on a road heading to the town of Grindavik, Iceland Monday Nov. 13, 2023. Residents of Grindavik, a town in southwestern Iceland, have been briefly allowed to return to their homes on Monday after being told to evacuate on Saturday after increasing concern about a potential volcanic eruption caused civil defense authorities to declare a state of emergency in the region. (AP Photo/Brynjar Gunnarsson)
Residents lined up for hours after it was announced they could return for pets (Picture: AP)

But the entire town of Grindavík could be destroyed, as the Icelandic Met Office revealed that the eruption could last for weeks.

A spokesperson said: ‘This would be a lava-producing volcanic eruption along a series of fissures and that would be the main hazard.

‘An eruption that persists for weeks is possible and that means roads and other forms of infrastructure could be eventually in harm’s way.’

Videos coming out of the danger zone have revealed extensive damage to roads near the town of Grindavík.

And the famous Blue Lagoon landmark is closed due to an increase in seismic activity in the area – with more than 20,000 tremors recorded in southwest Iceland since late October.

Those travelling to Iceland are advised to check with the Icelandic Met Office, Safe Travel Iceland and Almannavarnadeild Facebook page for the latest updates regarding the volcanic eruption.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at

For more stories like this, check our news page.


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