The volcano lies under the Vatnajokull glacier, the largest of its kind in Europe.
A DANGEROUS volcano in Iceland could be about to erupt for the first time since 1728 sparking potential travel chaos for Brit travellers.
Scientists fear Oraefajokull could begin spewing out ash and lava after they detected a staggering 160 small earthquakes at the site in the past week.
The impact of such an eruption could be huge because the volcano lies under the Vatnajokull glacier, the largest glacier in Europe.
“Oraefajokull is one of the most dangerous volcanoes in Iceland,” said Sara Barsotti, from the country’s meteorological office
“It’s a volcano for which we need to be very careful.”
Iceland is home to 32 volcanoes some of which caused widespread devastation.
The 1783 eruption of Laki spewed a toxic cloud over Europe, killing tens of thousands of people and sparking famine when crops failed.
The Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted in April 2010, prompting aviation authorities to close much of Europe’s airspace for five days out of fear that its volcanic ash could damage jet engines.
Thousands of Brit travellers were left stranded
Oraefajokull’s 1362 eruption was the most explosive since the island was populated, even more so than the eruption of Italy’s Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD which destroyed the city of Pompei.
Adding to the danger is the lack of historical data that could help scientists predict Oraefajokull’s behaviour.
“It’s not one of the best-known volcanoes,” Barsotti said.
“One of the most dangerous things is to have volcanoes for which we know that there is potential for big eruptions but with not that much historical data.”
Scientists are rushing to install new equipment on and around the volcano. Those include ultra-sensitive GPS sensors that can detect even the slightest tremors and webcam imagery.
It is located in southeast Iceland about 320 kilometers (200 miles) from the capital, Reykjavik.
About 2,000 tourists travel through Oraefi every day.
“The locals know what to do but the tourists, they don’t,” said police chief superintendent Sveinn Runarsson.
“That’s our worst nightmare.”