A volcano under a glacier in Iceland rumbled back to life on Wednesday, melting ice, shooting smoke and steam into the air and forcing hundreds of people to leave their homes.

Emergency officials evacuated 800 residents from around the Eyjafjallajokull glacier as rivers rose by up to three metres and flooded a sparsely populated area, said an official.

The agency said commercial aircraft had reported seeing steam plumes rising from the glacier. There were no immediate signs of large clouds of volcanic ash, which could disrupt air travel between Europe and North America, and Iceland's international airport remained open.

The volcano, 120 km east of Reykjavik, erupted March 20 after almost 200 years of silence. The original eruption petered out earlier this week. But Gunnar Gudmunsson, a geophysicist at the Icelandic Meteorological Office, said there had been a series of tremors overnight, and rivers in the area began rising on Wednesday morning — strong evidence of a new eruption under the glacier. “Most probably this eruption is taking place at the summit ... under the ice,” he said. Iceland, a nation of 320,000 people, sits on a large volcanic hot spot in the Atlantic's mid-oceanic ridge.The last time there was an eruption near the 160-square-km Eyjafjallajokull glacier was in 1821.

A bigger worry is the nearby and much larger Katla volcano, which in the past has erupted in tandem with Eyjafjallajokull. Katla is located under the vast Myrdalsjokull ice cap.

Keywords: Iceland volcano

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