Rescuers Missing in Volcanic Explosion
Feb. 29, 2000 -- At least seven people were reported missing on Monday near Iceland's erupting Mt. Hekla Volcano after thousands of motorists ignored authorities' warnings and drove to the area to view the explosions.  Three of the missing, snowboarders who assisted in the rescue efforts, were found later in the day.
More than 2,000 people were left stranded in their cars after leaving the capital Reykjavik to drive 75 miles to the east to watch the specacular eruption.
The cars were trapped in heavy snowdrifts, leaving most people to spend the night awaiting rescue crews.  Ragnar Stefansson, a geophysicist from the Icelandic Metorological Office, reported that the severe weather had made it almost impossible to see the volcano.
Officials warned that volcanic ash could clog car engine air intakes and that the gases being emitted from the earth near the foot of the volcano were posionous.
Volcanic ash began to drift toward Britain's northern Shetland and Orkney Islands on Monday, but officials said it posed no problems.
A spokesman from the Metorological Office reported that pilots had been advised to avoid a section of North Atlantic air-space where the ash was located.
Icelandic Volcano Explodes
Feb. 28, 2000 -- Iceland's Mount Hekla Volcano exploded on Sunday after having been inactive for more than nine years, spewing columns of steam and ash up to four miles high.  Witnesses reported that numerous fountains of lava encircling the fissure illuminated the rising ash.
Scientists first detected movement on Saturday in Hekla, which last erupted in 1991.  Poor weather conditions on Sunday impeded assessment of the eruptions, but geologist Ragnar Adalsteinsson from the Metorological Office said they could continue for as long as a month.
Authorities said the volcano, which is located in the southwest region of the island nation, posed no danger as lava was flowing into an area of uninhabited plains about 74 miles east of Reykjavik.  Flights were redirected around the 4,892-foot volcano, which is one of the highest in Europe.
Mediaeval Icelandic folklore depicts Hekla as being a gate to purgatory and a meeting place for covens of witches


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