Icelandic Zuist Church to Dissolve

Zuist Church Iceland

 

Ágúst Arnar Ágústsson, manager of the Icelandic Zuist Church, says once the state’s court case against the organisation is closed, he will dissolve the organisation, and distribute its ISK 50 million ($407,000/€365,000) in assets among the group’s members and charity organisations. Ágúst told mbl.is that he is tired of the organisation’s battles with legal authorities. In court proceedings earlier this month, the Treasury Solicitor stated there is little to suggest the Zuist Church is an active religious organisation and not simply a money-making scheme.

The Zuist Church of Iceland

The Zuist Church of Iceland was established in 2010. In 2013, it was officially recognised as a religious association by the Icelandic government. The organisation was minimally active until 2015, when it was taken over by a new leadership, which promised that the tax funds received by the church would be distributed among its members in a form of protest against nationally mandated tax on religious membership. A spike in membership followed, reaching around 3,000 at its height. In 2017, the original founders of the organisation, Ágúst Arnar among them, were restored to power. They decided to maintain the practice of refunding church members.

Court case

In November, the District Court of Reykjavík rejected the Zuist Church’s claims the State should pay the organisation penalty interest or damages. The Church’s representatives believed the state had violated the organisation by withholding tax funding in 2016 and 2017. The funds were withheld due to doubts the organisation was indeed functioning as a religious group.

“Kickstarter brothers”

Ágúst and his brother Einar became known as the Kickstarter brothers for several projects they promoted and funded on the platform, including a wind turbine which a New Zealand engineer described as violating some of the laws of physics. Einar was charged and convicted of fraud following an investigation by authorities, receiving a prison sentence of 3.5 years.

Electricity Issues Drag On in North Iceland

power outage extreme weather

While electricity has been restored to most areas affected by last week’s extreme weather, many areas of North Iceland continued to run on reserve power supplies as of this morning, RÚV reports. A few small areas still remain without power. Necessary repairs to damaged power lines will take days to complete.

No power, heat, or phone reception

Snow, wind, and ice damaged power lines and posts in North and East Iceland last Tuesday and Wednesday when a winter storm blew across the country. The resulting outages left some 20,000 without power, some areas for as long as five days. In areas where the hot water supply relies on electricity, homes quickly got cold indoors. Some residents found themselves without electricity, heat, radio, or even cell phone signals, unable to reach help in case of emergencies.

“Many farms were off-line, internet out and phone networks for a while, communication with the outside world was none, you couldn’t even listen to the radio, it all dropped out,” described Agnar Þór, Magnússon, a farmer in Högrárdalur, North Iceland. “It was very uncomfortable to know nothing at all about what was happening.”

Ministers visit affected areas

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir visited some of the affected areas on Friday, along with four government ministers, where they met local authorities to discuss the situation. In addition, a response group was set up that morning to review the region’s infrastructure. Minister of Transportation and Local Government Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson expressed his wish to streamline the process of laying power lines, stating that the government should be able to overrule landowners or environmental activists who oppose they laying of power lines.

Álfhildur Leifsdóttir, a local councillor in the municipality of Skagafjörður, criticised Sigurður Ingi for the statement, saying it was an attempt to shift the responsibility of the government and its agencies to landowners and activists “at a time when honest self-examination of infrastructure has never been more necessary!”

Local authorities urge government to react

The municipality of Hunaþing vestra sent out a statement criticising the poor energy infrastructure and lack of reserve power. The municipal council’s director Ragnheiður Jóna Ingimarsdóttir says the council will be bringing the issue to the state government.

Earthquake Swarm on Reykjanes Peninsula

Reykjanes earthquake swarm

Over 1,000 earthquakes and aftershocks have been detected in a wave of seismic activity on the Reykjanes peninsula which began yesterday morning. Nine of the earthquakes measured between a magnitude of 3.0 and 3.7. According to the Icelandic Met Office, there are no signs of volcanic tremor.

The earthquake swarm began around 7.00am on Sunday morning, with an earthquake of magnitude 3.5 measured at 8.00am. The activity calmed down around noon yesterday but began increasing again around 8.00pm. The largest earthquakes measured occurred just after that time, reaching magnitudes of 3.6 and 3.7. A third of magnitude 3.4 occurred 20 minutes later.

Three other quakes over 3.0 have occurred since 11.00pm last night. The seismic activity has continued into today, with earthquakes felt by residents in the capital region and as far away as Akranes.

No volcanic tremor detected

“The Reykjanes peninsula is a highly active geological area due to the rift between the Eurasian and North American continental plates,” Elísabet Pálmadóttir, a Geohazard Specialist at the Icelandic Met Office, told Iceland Review. “The earthquake activity can be caused by volcanic or tectonic activity, even both. In this case, we believe it is due to tectonic stress that is being released through the earthquakes.”

Elísabet stated that such swarms are known to go on for hours, days, and sometimes even weeks. “We see no signs of volcanic tremor, but we are following that very closely, especially since it is so close to inhabited areas.”