With lava still gushing Friday, a small Icelandic volcano that initially sent hundreds fleeing from their homes is turning into a boon for the island nation's tourism industry, as visitors flock to catch a glimpse of the eruption.
"I hope the eruption continues for a while because it is very good for business," said Ingi Thor Jakobsson, the manager of the Hotel Ranga located near the Eyjafjallajokull glacier where the Fimmvorduhals volcano erupted.
Advertisement"We have the eruption just next door and the view is just amazing. There aren't a lot of four star restaurants that can offer dinner and a view of a volcanic eruption," he told AFP, adding that his hotel has begun offering helicopter rides over the volcano.
"We have three helicopters ready and there has been a lot of interest both from Icelanders and foreigners," he said.
The Hotel Ranga is not the only one making a bundle from the volcano blast that sent some 600 people fleeing from their homes early Sunday in a remotely populated area about 125 kilometres (75 miles) east of Iceland's capital Reykjavik.
Although geologists say there is no indication when the eruption will end, most of the residents were allowed to return home within a day of the initial blast and since Tuesday tourist have increasingly been flocking to the area.
"This is amazing!" Marcela Pacheco, a tourist from Peru, told public broadcaster RUV.
"We would like to go closer, but it is great to experience something like this."
Karolina Meyer, a tourist from the Netherlands, told the broadcaster it was exciting experiencing something she had only before seen in movies.
"This is the first time in real life," she said.
According to Adolf Arnason, a police officer at Hvosvollur, the closest police district to the eruption, the area has seen a sharp increase in visitors this week.
"The traffic has been very heavy, but so far everyone has been careful and people are not going too close to the eruption," he told AFP.
A popular hiking trail that draws thousands of people each year up to the Fimmvorduhals volcano has been re-opened, he said, stressing however that people choosing to take the path were doing so at their own risk.
"There are quite a lot of people hiking. (They're) not letting a 12-hour hike stop them from getting a little closer to the eruption," Arnason said, adding that he expected more people to throng to the site at the weekend.
"The weather forecast (this weekend) is excellent for seeing the volcano," he said.
Reykjavik Excursions, which on Tuesday began offering daily bus tours to the volcano in the evening "so people could see the eruption in the twilight", also expected a surge in traffic at the weekend, employee Haukur Juliusson said.
"There has been quite a lot of interest so far, but we expect it to be greater during the weekend (since) the weather forecast is excellent for volcanic sightseeing," he told AFP.
The eruption is the first in Iceland since 2004, and the first in the vicinity of Eyjafjallajoekull since 1823.
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