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Hundreds flee as volcano erupts under glacier

REYKJAVIK, Iceland — A volcano under a glacier in Iceland erupted Wednesday for the second time in less than a month, melting ice, spewing smoke and steam, closing a major road and forcing hundreds of people to flee rising floodwaters.

Authorities evacuated 800 residents from around the Eyjafjallajokull glacier as water gushed down the mountainside and rivers rose as much as 10 feet.

Iceland's main coastal ring road was closed near the volcano, and workers smashed holes in the highway in three spots in a bid to give the rushing water a clear route to the coast and prevent bridges from being swept away.

Vidir Reynisson, a manager with Iceland's Civil Protection Department, said that by late afternoon the flooding appeared to have peaked.

"But the water is still flowing down to the ocean so it will be some hours before we have a better view of what kind of damage has occurred," he said.

Emergency officials and scientists said the eruption under the ice cap was 10 to 20 times more powerful than one last month, and carried a much greater risk of widespread flooding.

"This is a very much more violent eruption, because it's interacting with ice and water," said Andy Russell, an expert in glacial flooding at the University of Newcastle in northern England. "It becomes much more explosive, instead of a nice lava flow oozing out of the ground."

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