Bomb Threat on German Flight Investigated at Keflavík Airport

An airplane on its way from Frankfurt, Germany to Seattle, Washington in the US landed in Keflavík on Monday afternoon as a result of an onboard bomb threat. RÚV reports that the plane turned around over Greenland when Icelandic aviation authorities received word that a passenger on the plane had written “BOMB” on the mirror in one of the aircraft lavatories.

Two hundred and sixty-six passengers were onboard the flight, which was operated by German airline Condor. The plane was successfully evacuated after landing in Keflavík. Bomb squads from the National Police Commissioner’s special forces and the Icelandic Coast Guard were called to the scene, but no bomb was found, neither on a passenger’s person, in the onboard luggage, or on the plane itself.

All flight passengers were interrogated on Monday and evidence collected from passengers’ luggage. The initial investigation was concluded around midnight, by which point, the passengers had been waiting in a closed section of the airport for seven hours. They were then transported to 11 different hotels in the area for the evening and the original aircraft was flown back to Germany. A new aircraft with a new crew was sent in its place.

On Tuesday afternoon, all the flight’s passengers were allowed to leave the country on the new aircraft, which departed from Keflavík around 3:00 pm.

The culprit behind the threat has not yet been identified.

Police will continue to investigate the incident. Úlfar Lúðvíksson, chief of police in Suðurnes, says the investigation will be extensive and could take several months.

Bacterial Infection Brucella Canis Suspected in Dogs in Iceland

The Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) has reason to suspect that a bacterial disease called Brucella canis has been found in dogs in Iceland. RÚV reports that Bruncella canis can—in very rare instances—be transmitted from dogs to humans, with young children, pregnant, and immunocompromised people at the greatest risk of serious infection. This is the first time that Brucella canis has been detected in Iceland.

MAST veterinarian Vigdís Tryggvadóttir was quick to clarify that as yet, it is not certain that Bruncella canis actually is in Iceland, although there is a very high likeliness of this. “We have a strong suspicion, but it’s still only a suspicion,” she said. “We’ve sent samples abroad for confirmation, and hopefully, it won’t be [Brucella canis]. But [results] could take up to two weeks.”

In the meantime, MAST has enacted some protocols to curb the spread of infection. Relevant parties have been told to quarantine animals suspected of being infected with Brucella canis and a mating ban has been instated where appropriate. The agency is also collecting samples and information to trace possible spread and is urging dog breeders to observe the strictest level of infection prevention while assisting with whelping. Breeders are also encouraged to contact their veterinarian if a dog miscarries late in gestation or gives birth to stillborn puppies or puppies that die shortly after birth.

Dog breeders and vets at highest risk of exposure, minimal risk for others

Brucella canis is a zoonotic bacterial disease, which means it can be passed from animals to people. In a recent announcement, MAST said its most prominent symptoms in female dogs are miscarriages late in gestation, as well as puppies that are stillborn or die soon after birth; for male dogs, swollen testicles. The most common mode of transmission between dogs is mating.

It is rare for people to become infected with Brucella canis, but the biggest risk of infection is via fluids and tissue when helping an infected dog give birth. This puts dog breeders and veterinarians at the highest risk of infection, says Vigdís, while nearly everyone else has almost no risk of exposure.

In the very unlikely case of infection, symptoms of Brucella canis within people include fever, chills, malaise, loss of appetite, bone and/or muscle pain, and swollen lymph nodes. Symptoms may appear within several days or as much as a month after infection. The disease is not generally transmittable between people.

First time suspected in Iceland

This is the first time that Brucella canis has been suspected of being in Iceland, but it is a very common disease in nearby nations. “Brucella canis is endemic in many countries in Europe and also Asia and further afield,” said Vigdís. “It’s never been diagnosed here and it’s rare in some other European countries. We’ve never had it here and want, of course, to keep it outside our borders.”

Vigdís concluded by saying that even if a case of Brucella canis is confirmed in Iceland, that doesn’t mean an epidemic is breaking out.

Government Employees Surprised by Paycheck Delay in Advance of Holiday Weekend

Merchant’s Weekend is coming up, but for many government employees, a surprising change to their payment schedule will leave them with a lot less to celebrate—or at the very least, less money to celebrate with. Fréttablaðið reports that the Financial Management Authority (FJS) has decided to exercise its right to pay salaries on the first working day of the new month, which has left numerous government employees—particularly younger individuals—in the lurch before many are planning to travel.

Merchant’s Weekend is a three-day holiday that overlaps with the first Monday of August every year. It is the biggest travel weekend in Iceland, and also a major festival weekend around the country, with the Westman Island’s Þjóðhátíð foremost on the schedule. But since Monday is a national holiday, strapped government employees’ paychecks will be delayed even longer: they will not be paid out until Tuesday, August 2.

FSJ certainly has the right, per Article 10, Act 70/1996, to pay wages on the first working day of the new month, but the authority has only exercised this right once before, that is, in May of this year. At the time, many employees thought the change in payday was a mistake. Public employees were not given much forward notice about the upcoming change in payment schedule, either—FSJ only announced the new payment date on Monday of this week.

Significant Rainfall in South Iceland May Flood Jökulsá River, Destroy Temporary Bridge

Bridge over Jökulsá in Sólheimasandur

Significant rainfall is expected over the next 24 hours around the Eyjafjallajökull glacier in South Iceland and may cause considerable flooding on the Jökulsá river. The Road and Coastal Administration will be monitoring conditions along the Ring Road and bridges in the vicinity, but it is uncertain whether the temporary bridge crossing the Jökulsá river where it runs through the Sólheimasandur flood plain will withstand rising waters. This per an announcement made by the Road and Coastal Administration on Tuesday night.

Construction is currently underway on a new bridge over the Jökulsá at Sólheimasandur and in the meantime, traffic is being diverted onto a temporary bridge. The administration is currently hard at work deepening the riverbed and making other preparations that will hopefully prevent major flooding. Nevertheless, the temporary bridge may not survive significant water rising. In the event that the temporary bridge becomes impassable, traffic east of Skógar will be redirected onto the new bridge and a system of alternating green lights will allow traffic to travel in both directions.

The Road and Coastal Administration notes that railing has not yet been finished along the new bridge so if it is necessary for travellers to use it, the speed limit will be temporarily reduced as a safety precaution. Drivers are asked to heed any such speed reductions.

The Met Office has issued a yellow warning for South Iceland and expects heavy rainfall in the entire region, but especially around Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull glaciers. Travellers whose journeys are expected to take them over unbridged rivers are advised to reconsider their travel plans at this time as these rivers may be very difficult to cross or completely impassable.

Updates about road conditions can be found on the Road and Coastal Administration website, here, or by calling 1777 to get the most up-to-date conditions at any time.