Barriers Set to Shield Grindavík from Potential Eruption

Planned protective barriers for Grindavík

Protective barriers will be built in the vicinity of the town of Grindavík to protect it from a potential volcanic eruption. This was decided in a meeting of the cabinet of ministers yesterday, RÚV reports.

Work has already started on the barriers and the project will cost ISK 6 billion [$44 million, €40 million]. Minister of Justice Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir said yesterday that planning would continue today. “We will most likely take New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day off, but after that work on building the barriers will begin full force,” she said.

Expected to direct lava away

The barriers will be placed north of Grindavík, the town of 3,800 that was evacuated on November 10 due to seismic activity. Following the short-lived eruption at Sundhnúkagígar, just north of the town, residents were allowed to return home for Christmas. Mayor Fannar Jónasson has said that many obstacles remain before the inhabitants can feel safe and comfortable about moving back as crustal uplift and seismic activity continue in the area. A new eruption could begin soon, experts warn.

Fannar said that he was thankful to the government for acting quickly and agreeing to building the protective barriers. “This barriers are expected to direct the lava so it doesn’t flow straight into our town, but away from it,” Fannar told RÚV. He added that the barriers will affect the nature surrounding the town, much like avalanche barriers do in many Icelandic town. “And when there is this much at stake for us, including man-made structures, businesses, our harbour and so forth, we’ll have to put environmental concerns aside.”

Final stage completed in the spring

During the first stage of construction, the barriers will only be half as tall as they’ll eventually become. This first stage will cost ISK 500 million [$3.7 million, €3.3 million]. The barriers will only reach their full height and be completed in the spring months, Guðrún said. “These are large barriers and they will be effective,” she added. “They’ll change the landscape of Grindavík. But we think this is the best option to try with all our might to protect valuables in Grindavík.”