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Melting Glacier Floods Iceland, Destroys Bridges

Volcanic eruptions beneath Europe’s largest glacier melted the cap of the icy mass on Tuesday, unleashing floodwaters that swept away two bridges in Iceland.

Floodwaters from the Vatnajokull glacier destroyed the 1,233-foot-long Gigja Bridge as well as another 164-foot bridge along the country’s southern coast, said Orn Egilsson, spokesman for Iceland’s Civil Defense agency.

Civil defense authorities were concerned that a third bridge, the 2,950-foot-long Skeidarar, also would be destroyed by the force of the flooding.

“The flooding is bad,” Egilsson said. “The speed of the water is much more than people imagined.”

The flooding happened in a remote area 185 miles east of Reykjavik, and no people or homes were threatened.

The eruption in the Loki volcano began around Oct. 1, creating molten rock that melted 70,000 cubic feet of water. The water gathered in a crater underneath the 2,000-foot-thick glacier.

Though the eruption stopped on Oct. 12, a vast pool of melted water built up beneath the ice. Under pressure from the melting water, the ice cap on top of the glacier finally cracked Tuesday, unleashing millions of gallons of water onto the surrounding countryside.

The water was pouring into the ocean along the south coast of Iceland, about 140 miles east of Reykjavik.

The Loki volcano is not cone-shaped, but rather a fissure in the ground.

The eruption took place along a five-mile stretch of the fissure.

The glacier’s edge is near the main coastal road around the country. Workers have been reinforcing roads and bridges near the volcano.

Loki - named for the Norse god who personified evil - did not erupt as strongly as it had in 1938. But Iceland’s coastal highway, and its bridges over glacial rivers, had not been built then.