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2nd volcanic fissure opens 'just outside' evacuated Icelandic town, Met office says

Hours after a volcanic fissure opened north of an evacuated town in Iceland, a second fissure opened "just outside" the residential area, the Icelandic Meteorological Office said Sunday.

The first fissure cracked open at about 8 a.m., releasing a slow-moving river of lava that inched south toward Grindavík for hours.

The lava seemed to split into two paths, covering land alongside the berms being built to protect the town. It was about 450 meters from the town, officials said.

"The town had already been successfully evacuated overnight and no lives are in danger, although infrastructure may be under threat," President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson said on social media. "No interruptions to flights."

PHOTO: Billowing smoke and flowing lava are seen in this Icelandic Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management , January 14, 2024, handout image during an volcanic eruption on the outskirts of the evacuated town of Grindavik, western Iceland.  (Icelandic Department Of Civil Protection/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: Billowing smoke and flowing lava are seen in this Icelandic Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management , January 14, 2024, handout image during an volcanic eruption on the outskirts of the evacuated town of Grindavik, western Iceland. (Icelandic Department Of Civil Protection/AFP via Getty Images)

The office said at 12:40 p.m. that a second fissure had opened south of the first. On a live video feed from Icelandic state television station RUV, the lava from the second fissure could be seen bubbling near rows of vacant houses.

Sunday's eruption followed an "intense" series of earthquakes that began around 3 a.m. near where a volcano erupted in December, the Met office said.

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"At the time of publication, over 200 earthquakes have been measured in the area, and the seismicity has moved towards the town of Grindavík," weather officials said in a notice posted before the eruption.

PHOTO: Billowing smoke from a volcanic eruption is seen as a police car blocks the road north of the southwestern Icelandic town of Grindavik, on Jan. 14, 2024.  (Sergei Gapon/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: Billowing smoke from a volcanic eruption is seen as a police car blocks the road north of the southwestern Icelandic town of Grindavik, on Jan. 14, 2024. (Sergei Gapon/AFP via Getty Images)

The earthquakes were in the Sundhnúksgígar crater, an area north of the town. The largest measured was an about 3.5 magnitude quake just after 4 a.m., the Met said.

Preliminary data showed Sunday's eruption just southeast of Hagafell, a mountain on the Reykjanes peninsula, the Met said.

About 4,000 Grindavík residents were evacuated in November, as tens of thousands of earthquakes rumbled the region. Those tremors signaled a high likelihood of an eruption, Met officials said at the time.

PHOTO: Lava flows in southwestern Iceland on Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024, in this image taken and released by Civil Protection of Iceland. (Civil Protection of Iceland)
PHOTO: Lava flows in southwestern Iceland on Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024, in this image taken and released by Civil Protection of Iceland. (Civil Protection of Iceland)

Some residents had returned in recent weeks, as the government worked to build a kilometers-long berm in an attempt to protect the town from future eruptions.

That town was again ordered to evacuate on Saturday, officials said in a statement ahead of Sunday's eruption.

As the lava flowed toward the town, workers could be seen moving construction equipment out of its path.

"This continues to surprise us," Benedikt feigsson, of the Met Office, told RUV. "Things were slowing down after the eruption started, but about half an hour or an hour ago they started to pick up speed again. We are no longer seeing a slowdown in the town."

ABC News' Edward Szekeres contributed to this story.

2nd volcanic fissure opens 'just outside' evacuated Icelandic town, Met office says originally appeared on abcnews.go.com