Gullfoss Footpath Closed Tomorrow Due to Icy Conditions

Owing to ongoing frost by the waterfall Gullfoss in Southwest Iceland, rangers from the Environment Agency of Iceland have taken measures to make footpaths in the area safer. Not all precautions have proven effective, however; incessant spray has rendered the gravel footpath leading to the waterfall extremely slippery. To ensure the safety of visitors, the footpath will be closed tomorrow (23rd of October).

Other footpaths in the area have been sanded and will remain open. The frost is expected to continue throughout the week. The footpath will open again later this fall if weather conditions improve.

Rangers have also put up signs recommending the use of crampons by Gullfoss and Geysir.

President of Iceland Attends Coronation in Japan

Coronation of Japanese Emperor Naruhito

President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson and First Lady Eliza Reid were in attendance today at Emperor Naruhito’s coronation in Japan. The occasion was attended by at least 180 national leaders. Guðni expressed pleasure, as a historian, at being present at the moment when Naruhito officially inherited the throne from his father Akihito.

“This doesn’t happen every day of course, so the ceremony was very respectable and historic, let’s say,” Guðni told Vísir. “Naruhito takes over from his father Akihito who is still living in advanced old age but resigned from the rank of emperor in April. The Emperor before that was the grandfather of the current Emperor, Hirohito who was Emperor of the Japanese for a large part of the 20th century, so it was a truly historic moment and dignified, but also unpretentious at the same time.”

Gunði says the visit presents various opportunities for strengthening ties between the two countries. The trip’s schedule includes a meeting with Shinzo Abe, Japan’s Prime Minister as well as other members of the Japanese parliament. Both Guðni and Eliza will visit universities in the country during their stay.

The coronation ceremony can be watched in full via Global News.

Children of Asylum Seekers Receive Tailored Instruction

asylum seeker program Birta

A new educational program is providing learning and support to children of asylum seekers in Reykjavík, RÚV reports. The children receive instruction in subjects such as math, Icelandic, and art while their families’ asylum applications are being processed.

Birta, an educational department tailored for children of asylum seekers, was established this fall at Háaleitisskóli school in Álftamýri. The children currently attending the program include siblings Sídar, Sívana, and Alla from Syria, and cousins Jwan and Fatima from Iraq. All five were living in refugee camps before coming to Iceland and had never attended school.

“We always start the day in the same way so they know what’s happening next,” explains Aðalheiður Diego Hjálmarsdóttir, Birta’s department head. She says the staff at Háaleitisskóli have taken well to the project and been very helpful. “It’s gone even better than we hoped.” In addition to receiving specially tailored instruction, the children attend some classes with their Icelandic peers, such as physical education and art.

While the children are progressing in their studies, they must nevertheless face the uncertainty of whether or not they will be permitted to stay in Iceland. “Our goal is to provide them with confidence and safety and strengthen them so that if they leave Iceland, they have something to build on and don’t leave here empty handed,” stated Aðalheiður.

Major, Yet Mobile, Renovations to Domestic Airport

Reykjavík domestic airport

The City of Reykjavík has given the go-ahead for major renovations to Reykjavík Domestic Airport, despite the fact that a majority of the council members support moving the airport out of the city centre entirely. RÚV reports that the city granted domestic airline Air Iceland Connect a permit to carry out major renovations at the airport earlier this fall. The airport’s location by the city centre has long been a bone of contention among politicians and city residents.

“There are significant improvements that we would want to make here,” stated Árni Gunnarsson, CEO of Air Iceland Connect. “Of course, the premises are a little overdue [for renovation] and although we have tried to maintain it as much as possible, it’s time for major improvements.”

The renovations include demolishing most of the existing terminal and build a new one in its place. While the federal transport plan allocates ISK 1 billion ($8m/€7.2m) for maintenance of the airport, Árni stated it was unclear what the overhaul would cost or when it would be carried out.

Sigurborg Ósk Haraldsdóttir, chairperson of the city’s Planning and Transportation Committee, expressed support for the renovations and stated she hopes the construction can begin in the coming weeks. “I think it’s time to improve access to the terminal and especially to improve access for everyone and access to the bus,” she stated.

Reykjavík domestic airport.
[/media-credit] Reykjavík Domestic Airport.

The domestic airport’s location has been hotly debated for decades: while some point out its central position is convenient for travellers and emergency transport to the nearby National Hospital, others argue the prime real estate would be better used for additional housing near the city centre. Sigurborg did not consider it contradictory to launch renovations when the majority of the city council opposes the airport remaining at its current location. “This is simply part of the agreement between the state and the city from 2013 that stipulated the closure of the small runway. It also provided for the addition of approach lights, to thin the forest on Öskjuhlíð and then to improve and enlarge the terminal,” she stated.

In 2013, design of the new terminal building was planned to allow for it to be taken apart and constructed elsewhere should the airport later be relocated. It appears that remains the case: Sigurborg confirmed that the land-use plan specifies the new buildings are temporary in nature.