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Iceland on alert for volcano threat

REYKJAVIK, Iceland — Iceland’s Civil Protection Agency has registered hundreds of earthquakes since midnight Monday at the site of one of its biggest volcanoes as the island braces for a possible eruption.

‘‘There is a very strong indication of magma movement east of Bardarbunga caldera,’’ the Reykjavik-based agency said in a statement late Monday. Around 800 earthquakes have been observed in the area since Sunday, with the strongest measuring 4.5 on the Richter scale, the agency said.

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The Bardarbunga volcano is 15.5 miles wide and rises 6,234 feet above sea level. It last erupted in 1996. The volcano lies beneath Vatnajokull, Europe’s largest glacier. Roads to and from the area have been closed off, and Iceland’s police commissioner has met with Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson and other officials to review the risks.

Ash from Iceland’s Grimsvotn volcano forced flight cancellations in northern Europe in May 2011. An eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in 2010 caused the cancellation of more than 100,000 flights due to concern that glass-like particles formed from lava might clog aircraft engines.

Iceland’s Met Office on Monday raised the alert level at Bardarbunga to ‘‘orange,’’ indicating ‘‘heightened or escalating unrest with increased potential of eruption.’’

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