Travel Warning: Iceland Downgrades Alert Over Bardarbunga Volcano Eruption, Seismic Activity Still Continues

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | August 25, 2014 2:06 PM EST

Iceland has downgraded the alert over the Bardarbunga volcano from red to orange after a series of strong earthquakes rocked the area on Saturday. But the Icelandic Meteorological Office warned the triple threat of earthquakes, eruptions and flooding still remain.


An airplane of German air carrier Lufthansa lands at the airline's main hub, the Fraport airport in Frankfurt, March 14 2013. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Bardarbunga was rocked by intensity 5.3 and 5.1 earthquakes in the past week, the highest registered in the area since 1996.

Seeing a small lava eruption forming underneath the glacier at the Bardarbunga volcano, the Icelandic Meteorological Office issued on Saturday a red alert, indicating the threat for an imminent violent eruption. But it didn't happen, thus the alert reversal.

From red, which meant ash-emitting eruption could be imminent, Iceland downgraded the warning to orange which meant "heightened or escalating unrest with increased potential of eruption."

The red alert was the highest on a five-point scale.

The country's aviation authorities immediately lifted a no-fly zone that had been imposed for 100 nautical miles by 140 nautical miles (185km by 260km) around the volcano.

"All restrictions on aviation have been cancelled," Icelandic police said in a statement.

Asked as to why it didn't explode yet, all the meteorological office could say was that the intense low-frequency seismic signal it had observed "has therefore other explanations."

As the threat of a possible eruption still remains, tourists from the nearby Jökulsárgljúfur canyon and Dettifoss waterfall continue to be evacuated.

Some 300 to 500 people have been evacuated from the highlands north of the Vatnajokull glacier, a section popular with hikers, according to Iceland's Civil Protection Department.

Other countries are likewise closely monitoring the seismic activity at Bardarbunga volcano which is located in a major flight path from the U.K. to North America. An eruption would likely cause air travel and traffic chaos.

In April 2010, the Weather.com reported, around 10 million travelers around the world were stranded when ash from a volcanic eruption of Eyjafjoell, a smaller volcano, caused major air traffic disruptions and cancelled over 100,000 flights.

Iceland is home to more than 100 volcanic mountains, considered as among the most active in the world.

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An airplane of German air carrier Lufthansa lands at the airline's main hub, the Fraport airport in Frankfurt, March 14 2013. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
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