INDEPENDENT 2024-03-17 01:03:49


Volcano erupts again in Iceland spewing lava into the air

A state of emergency has been declared in Iceland after a volcano erupted for the fourth time spewing bright orange lava metres into the air.

The dramatic event marks the fourth “alarming” volcanic eruption in three months along the Reykjavik peninsula, nearby the abandoned town of Grindavik.

The Icelandic Met Office said on Saturday night that the fissure had opened as livestreams of the event saw fountains of lava spewing into the sky.

“Warning: An eruption began in Reykjanes,” the Icelandic Meteorological Office said on its website, while Reykjavik’s nearby Keflavik Airport’s website showed it remained open both for departures and arrivals.

Authorities had warned for weeks of an imminent eruption. Iceland’s Civil Protection Agency said prior to the latest explosion: “Since October 24, scientists at the Icelandic Met Office have been monitoring a rise in seismic activity on the Reykjanes Peninsula, which may signal an impending volcanic eruption.

“The heightened intensity of these seismic events, particularly near the town of Grindavík, indicates the potential for volcanic activity in the area.

“As a precautionary measure, the town was evacuated on November 10 to prioritize the safety of its residents. Evacuations will remain in effect until seismic activity subsides.”

Local media reports that residents of the nearby fishing town of Grindavik had been evacuated from the area, having received text messages telling them to leave just minutes earlier.

Grindavik, a town of 3,800 people about 50km south-west of Iceland‘s capital Reykjavik, was evacuated in November when the Svartsengi volcanic system awakened after almost 800 years with a series of earthquakes that opened large cracks in the earth between the town and Sylingarfell, a small mountain to the north.

The volcano eventually erupted on 18 December, sending lava flowing away from Grindavik.

A second eruption that began on 14 January sent lava towards the town.

The volcano last erupted in early February, cutting off district heating to more than 20,000 people as lava flows destroyed roads and pipelines, while an outbreak in January burned to the ground several houses in a fishing town.

Volcanic outbreaks in the Reykjanes peninsula are so-called fissure eruptions, which do not usually cause large explosions or significant dispersal of ash into the stratosphere.

However, scientists fear they could continue for decades, and Icelandic authorities have started building dykes to divert burning lava flows away from homes and critical infrastructure.

Iceland, which sits above a volcanic hot spot in the North Atlantic, averages an eruption every four to five years.

The country boasts more than 30 active volcanoes, making the north European island a prime destination for volcano tourism – a niche segment that attracts thousands of thrill seekers.

The most disruptive in recent times was the 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, which spewed huge clouds of ash into the atmosphere and led to widespread airspace closures over Europe.

Trump says US will see ‘bloodbath’ if he’s not re-elected

Former President Donald J Trump is appearing as a special guest speaker at a Buckeye Values PAC Rally in Dayton, Ohio one day after his criminal trial was delayed.

Mr Trump is in the state to help boost the campaign of Bernie Moreno, a car dealership owner who has his backing in the state’s US Senate primary coming this Tuesday. The former president is wading into an abnormally vicious GOP primary that appears to be neck-and-neck between three candidates, with Mr Moreno holding a slight lead.

The race turned especially ugly over the past week as supporters of Mr Moreno’s rivals circulated a story from the Associated Press revealing that an email used by the businessman was registered on the sexual rendezvous site “Adult Friend Finder”; not to be outdone, Mr Moreno’s allies launched a mailer accusing another Republican in the race, conservative Frank LaRose, of being a closet ally of the LGBT+ community.

Additionally, it was a busy week for Donald Trump’s criminal cases.

Judge Juan Merchan has ruled that his New York hush-money trial will be pushed back by 30 days from today following a dump of new evidence for both parties to consider — the original start date was 25 March.

Six miles of traffic on first day as stretch of M25 shut all weekend

Drivers have been warned to “stay at home” as the unprecedented closure of the M25 is expected to cause a “carmageddon” of gridlock traffic this weekend.

Miles-long tailbacks had already begun on Saturday in the run-up to the five-mile closure between Junctions 10 and 11 in Surrey, which was closed in both directions at 9pm on Friday and will remain shut off until 6am on Monday while a bridge is demolished and a new gantry is installed.

It is the first planned daytime closure of the motorway – which encircles London – since it opened in 1986. National Highways said its modelling indicated vehicles would face delays of up to five hours without mitigation measures, such as urging drivers to stay away.

An 11.5-mile diversion route has been created to direct traffic along A roads  – and Inrix data suggested there were queues of around six miles along the route at Cobham on Saturday.

The M25 normally carries between 4,000 and 6,000 vehicles in each direction every hour from 10am until 9pm at weekends between Junctions 9 and 11.

Princess Diana’s brother says her scrutiny more dangerous than Kate’s

Princess Diana’s brother has claimed that the press attention his sister received was “more dangerous” than the current scrutiny surrounding the Princess of Wales.

Kate has been subject to unfounded conspiracy theories about her health in recent weeks as she recovers from abdominal surgery away from the public eye.

In an interview with the BBC, Earl Spencer compared the situation to the attention his sister faced and said: “I think it was more dangerous back in the day.”

The aristocrat became a vocal critic of the press after Diana died in a car crash while being pursued by photographers in Paris in 1997.

He told the broadcasters: “The circumstances of [Diana’s] death were so shocking, that it did make the industry that supports the paparazzi really consider more carefully what it could and couldn’t do.”

It comes as the King of the Netherlands poked fun at Kate in the wake of the Mother’s Day photo editing scandal.

The monarch, Willem-Alexander, was speaking to members of the public when a girl said she had seen a photo of him with his whole family.

The monarch replied: “At least I didn’t photoshop it,” prompting laughter from the crowd.

Has Penny Mordaunt’s time finally come?

A coronation for the bearer of the sword of state. The latest scheme to save at least some Conservative MPs from the executioners of the electorate is a plot to replace Rishi Sunak with Penny Mordaunt in a leadership election with only one candidate.

“You could not have another contest and the only possible candidate I can see people uniting behind is Penny,” a source told the Daily Mail. Apparently, Tory MPs “on the right of the party”, who would rather have Kemi Badenoch or Suella Braverman as leader, would settle for Mordaunt if she would “allow social policy to be set by others” – Mordaunt’s “woke views on gender issues” being the main obstacle to their backing her.

The priority of the plotters is to “get rid of Rishi”, in the belief that almost anybody else as prime minister would lose fewer Tory seats. They are excited by opinion polls from Savanta and Michael Ashcroft showing that Mordaunt is the most popular leading Conservative – more popular than Rishi Sunak, Boris Johnson, Badenoch or Braverman.

They dismiss suggestions that the voters would take a dim view of the Tory party offering them yet another prime minister, the fourth since the last election, or that it would be too late to make the switch now. “No 10’s handling of some recent events has been so astonishingly bad,” the Daily Mail’s source said, that what had seemed “ridiculous” until recently was now “much more likely”.

Some Tories have even cited the Bob Hawke scenario to me, referring to the Australian Labor Party changing its leader after the election was called in 1983 and going on to win four weeks later.

Other precedents are cited. The “coronation” of Michael Howard as Tory leader after MPs dumped Iain Duncan Smith in 2003. Howard was elected unopposed, partly because MPs couldn’t trust the party members to make the right choice, as they sought to avoid a meltdown at the 2005 election.

It should be possible to persuade other candidates not to stand this time too, it is argued. Badenoch, who is the favourite to take over as leader after the election, does not want to be leader before it, whereas Mordaunt might see it as her best chance.

Well, I kept it up for seven paragraphs. It was fun while it lasted. But the time has come to admit that “Has Penny Mordaunt’s time come?” is a QTWTAIN: a Question To Which The Answer Is No. The idea was ridiculous before the prime minister dealt ineptly with Lee Anderson, a former Tory deputy chair, saying the mayor of London was controlled by Islamists, and before he dithered in response to the unpleasant comments about Diane Abbott made by Frank Hester, the Tories’ biggest donor. And it is still ridiculous now.

Mordaunt’s relatively favourable opinion-poll rating is a mirage. She looked great at the actual coronation in Westminster Abbey, and she has made good use of the one perk of being leader of the House of Commons, which is that she gets a guaranteed slot in the chamber every week. She can use this to range across any subject, including her favourite, bashing the Scottish National Party, and it clips up well on social media.

But she struggled in the leadership election in 2022. In the two TV debates featuring five candidates, she was eclipsed by Badenoch and Tom Tugendhat, let alone by the front runners, and when she was eliminated in the final MPs’ ballot, she endorsed Liz Truss rather than Sunak. Of course, she could see which way the members were going and wanted to back the winner, but it was a questionable judgement.

If Tory MPs think that Sunak has made mistakes and fumbled opportunities to recover lost ground with the voters, they should remember Mordaunt’s “stand up and fight” speech at last year’s Tory conference, delivered to a sleepy, half-empty hall as if she were urging hostile villagers to take up arms against an oppressive feudal lord.

Even if the plotters are right that another change of leader could save a few seats from the deluge that is about to hit them, they know it cannot be done. The idea that even losing the West Midlands and Tees Valley mayoralties in the local elections in May will persuade half of Tory MPs to vote no confidence in Sunak remains ridiculous.

A small number of Boris-loving or Rishi-hating Tory MPs are motivated to talk to journalists about plots. But most Tory MPs are One Nation moderates, divided between those who have given up and those who think that ditching Sunak would only make matters worse. They mostly think highly of the prime minister and are disappointed that he hasn’t been able to turn things round. Some think that is his fault – usually couched as a criticism of the team around him – but others say that, in hindsight, the problems he inherited were insoluble.

They are all preparing for defeat at the general election in different ways. The one thing they are not going to do is to unite behind a plan to crown Mordaunt as prime minister. She is not the answer to the Tory party’s question: who will save us? “Has Penny Mordaunt’s time come?” remains a QTWTAIN.

Island-hopping in the Ionian sea: a guide to Greece’s idyllic islands

Mamma Mia! It’s time to start thinking about a summer holiday, and there’s nowhere more picturesque and dreamy than a Greek island. With an estimated 1,600 isles, although not all are inhabited, there’s plenty to choose from that guarantee sparkling seas, golden sands, rugged nature, delicious food, and a warm welcome.

To help you find your ideal Greek island holiday this summer, travel experts Jet2holidays offer great-value breaks in more than 50 amazing destinations, including 21 in Greece. Hotspots and hidden gems, all boards and budgets, flexible stays and fab flight times – there’s something for everyone. With just a £60pp deposit*, 22kg baggage included and flexible monthly payments** to help spread the cost of your well-deserved holiday, it’s never been easier to get your next Greek getaway booked. 

What’s more, with the Jet2holidays sale now on, you can enjoy even better value on your break with up to £240 off† all holidays. Simply sign up for a myJet2 account, visit your independent travel agent or call the Jet2holidays contact centre. Book now and let the countdown to sunshine begin.

Here’s our pick of some of the best islands Greece has to offer…

Stunning beaches are a given in Greece, and in Corfu, the most beautiful include Agios Georgios, a long, horseshoe-shaped bay with a mix of sand and pebbles fringing calm, clear waters. Down the northwest coast is the pretty village of Palaiokastritsa which boasts six sheltered bays and offers boat trips to the fascinating Blue Caves. For a beach as romantic as its name, head to the Canal d’Amour, where a series of unique rock formations create intimate, narrow channels; legend has it that couples who swim between the sea walls together, stay together!

Explore the cobbled streets of Corfu Old Town, and take in pastel-coloured Venetian architecture while looking out for the new and old Fortresses which loom over the harbour. Base yourself at the swish Olivar Suites on the southeastern coast, a restful haven set in olive groves, away from the bustle.

Lefkas, also known as Lefkada, is an island connected to the Greek mainland by a causeway. Head to the beach at Porto Katsiki, located below a set of huge, looming cliffs which create a unique and dramatic landscape. Another gem is nearby Egremni, a classic, Caribbean-style stretch of white sand, fringing crystal-clear turquoise water, while if you fancy windsurfing, head to Vasiliki. On the east coast, check into the four-star, beachfront Porto Galini Sea Side Resort and Spa; handily, it’s just 15 minutes’ drive from Lefkada Town.

Also formerly under Venetian rule, landmarks including Church of the Pantokrator and the ruins of Agia Mavra Castle are worth a look. Escape to a pretty coastal village, such as Agios Nikitas or Nikiana, where you can take a table at a seafront taverna, and tuck into local speciality Englouvi lentils served with riganada (bread with olive oil, vinegar, and oregano). For a foray into nature, head to the spectacular waterfalls of Dimossari, near Nydri village.

Also known as Zakynthos, Zante is a popular island in the Ionian Sea, with a plethora of alluring beaches. The most famous is Navagio, which is surrounded by dramatic, honey-coloured cliffs and often called ‘Shipwreck Beach’ after the cargo boat which ran aground there in 1980, another must-visit is Agios Nikolaos, a serene pebbly stretch on Zante’s northern shore.

Stay at the luxury Domes Aulus Zante Autograph Collection, a laidback beachfront paradise on the south coast, near the quiet resort town of Kalamaki, where you can spot endangered loggerhead turtles. Zante has its own Blue Caves, a set of geological formations turned azure by the reflections of the sea, while its capital, Zakynthos Town, offers architecture influenced by its former Venetian, French and English rulers. Don’t miss the imposing Church of Agios Dionysios with its signature bell tower, and the ruins of the old Venetian Castle.

Sprinkled with Hollywood stardust, scenic Kefalonia was the location for the Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz movie, Captain Correlli’s Mandolin. Key scenes were shot in the harbour town of Sami, the stunning Antisamos beach and in the picturesque fishing village of Fiscardo. Kefalonia’s jagged coastline is made up of limestone cliffs, bays and strips of dazzling white sand, like Myrtos Beach in the north. Other standout beaches include Skala, bordered by thick trees and rocky outcrops, and the unusually named Xi beach, where white cliffs contrast with rare, rust-coloured sand.

Stay at the luxurious, contemporary, adults-only Thalassa Boutique Hotel Kefalonia on the southwest coast, a short drive from capital, Argostoli, where you can explore the Archaeological Museum, Municipal Theatre and historic castles and monasteries. For something more adventurous, explore the vast azure lake inside Melissani cave or hike Mount Ainos, the island’s highest peak, covered in pine forests and home to wild horses. Visit a winery such as Robola or Haritatos for a tasting.

Jet2holidays, the UK’s number one tour operator, offers package holidays you can trust where everything’s included. With you every step of the way, Jet2holidays has an incredible range of great-value, expert-rated getaways for all types of holidaymakers, across more than 50 stunning destinations. From the five-star luxury of Indulgent Escapes by Jet2holidays® to the compelling cities of Jet2CityBreaksVIBE by Jet2holidays for Insta-worthy stays that suit your style to family-friendly Jet2Villas, the boxes are ticked for every age, budget and interest. What’s more, with holidays secured for just £60pp deposit* and flexible payment options**, plus a host of perks like 22kg baggage and return transfers included††, it’s easy from start to finish. It’s all ABTA and ATOL-protected too, so you can enjoy sunshine with peace of mind. To find out more and book with the best, head here.

*On bookings made ten weeks or more before departure. **Terms and conditions apply. Please visit www.jet2holidays.com/part-payment for details. †Based on 4 people. On all holiday departures until 31 October 2025. . T&Cs apply. £60pp discount does not apply to Free Child Places. See http://Jet2holidays.com/promotions#60OFFMYJET2SALE ††Transfers are not included as standard on Jet2CityBreaks. Jet2Villas packages include car hire instead of transfers.

The prison riot squad shortage is a sign of a much deeper crisis

The Independent has raised the alarm in its reporting of the state of Britain’s prisons over the past year. Our warning that overcrowding was becoming serious came long before Alex Chalk, the justice secretary, took emergency action a few days ago to release a large number of offenders two months before their sentences were due to end.

We have reported on the problems with recruiting staff, and the pile-up of prisoners held on remand as court backlogs push the system to capacity and beyond. Now we report the shortage of “Tornado squad” riot officers, those trained to deal with violent disorder, who are the last line of defence in a prison estate that is bursting at the seams.

Prisons are rarely a political priority and are always likely to suffer from underfunding. But the combination of the recruitment crisis throughout the public services and the rise in prisoner numbers caused by longer sentences and court delays has turned a chronic problem into an acute one.

What will the House of Commons look like after the general election?

We don’t know when the general election will come, or who will win, albeit we can make some fairly safe guesses. However, what is as near to certain as can be is that the next House of Commons will look, sound and behave very differently from the present one.

The preponderance of mostly male Conservatives standing down or facing likely defeat – and the sheer scale of that defeat, coupled with an influx of more gender-balanced and diverse Labour candidates – means that the next House will have a record number of female MPs, and more people from an ethnic minority background than ever before. It will also be younger, feature more members from LGBT+ communities, and, dare one say it, be more “woke” and open to newer ways of running parliamentary debates, dress codes, hours of work and much else. We are on the brink of a dramatic change