Deep North News: Eruption in Reykjanes Imminent

In this episode of Deep North News, it may have already happened: yet another eruption in Reykjanes. If so, this will mark the fourth one since last December. What will this mean for visitors to Iceland, or moreover, the people of Grindavík?

Also, an Icelandic company is set to take over the US market, a new app may save lives, a surprising number of Icelanders live abroad–but where?–and lots more.

Deep North News brings you all of Iceland’s top stories, every week, with the context and background you need. Be sure to like, follow and subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode!

Next Eruption Could Set Off With As Little As Half Hour’s Notice

Reykjanes peninsula eruptions

When the next eruption begins in the Reykjanes peninsula, there may be precious little time to react, according to the latest report from the Icelandic Met Office on the matter.

Magma filling fast

The Met Office notes that, as in previous eruptions, magma is gathering in great volume beneath Svartsengi. As of February 22nd, it is estimated that there are some 5 million cubic metres of magma recharged into the reservoir beneath Svartsengi.

“Considering the trend observed prior to previous volcanic eruptions in the Sundhnúkur crater row, the likelihood of an eruption is very high once the volume reaches between 8-13 million cubic meters (derived from joint InSAR-GNSS models),” the report states. “Based on the results of the model calculations, this could occur early next week if magma accumulation continues at the current rate.”

They emphasise, however, that “there is a degree of uncertainty in this interpretation, and it cannot be assumed that the behaviour will be identical to the past eruptions here.” At the same time, the magma system itself may evolve in such a way that it may take even less magma than before for an eruption to occur.

Three likely scenarios

The Met Office outlines three possible scenarios:

An incident similar to the eruptions of February 8th and last December 18th, wherein sudden and intense earthquakes followed by an eruption between the mountains of Sýlingarfell and Stóra-Skógfell. This would give a warning time of thirty minutes or even less.

The second scenario would be similar to the January 14th incident, wherein there is an eruption by Hagafell with lava flow reaching the barriers around Grindavík within an hour. This would give a warning time of approximately one to three hours.

The third scenario would be the worst case scenario for Grindavík–an eruption within the town itself. There would be a warning time of one to five hours from the first earthquakes to the start of the eruption.

Ever-changing data

As always, every aspect of an eruption is notoriously difficult to predict with perfect accuracy. This is especially the case as what is happening beneath the surface of Reykjanes is fluid, quite literally, and although predictions can be made, they are subject to change.

“Please note that these scenarios are based on interpretations of the latest data and the observed development of the previous events at the Sundhnúkur crater row area,” the Met Office concludes. “Uncertainty must be accounted for in this interpretation, as it is only based on few events.”

Icelandic App To Help People Quit Opiates Getting International Attention

A new Icelandic app, created with the help of doctors and designed to help those prescribed addictive substances such as opiates ween themselves off of them safely, is starting to gain traction abroad, RÚV reports.

Simple but crucial

The app in question, Prescriby, is available in both Icelandic and English, and its implementation is fairly straightforward. By entering the name of the drug in question, the number of weeks it is to be taken, and how many doses per day the app calculates a scheduling of dosages for the patient.

This is critically important, as some medications, like opiates, can cause physical addiction in as little as 30 days of daily use. Sudden cessation can cause withdrawal symptoms, which can lead to relapses or, in the case of long term use, withdrawal can be fatal if not managed correctly.

“Prescriby takes a proactive approach to addictive medication management which is essential to realizing better outcomes for patients and the health care system,” the app’s creators state on their site. “Our program is an adaptive model, combining best practices with clinically validated software that integrates with clinical workflow.”

International traction

The app has been in use at the pharmacy Reykjanesapótek for some time now, and has reportedly been serving patients well. It will also be put into practice in Canada next week, and then in Denmark later in the year.

Kjartan Þórsson, creator of Prescriby and himself a doctor, emphasised the necessity of the app to reporters.

“Most people that I speak with have some kind of story, either about a relative or themselves, who have been sent home with a hundred Contalgin [morphine] tablets, or what have you,” he said. “And there’s no plan in place. We’re letting people get some of the most addictive substances in the world and we don’t even have a plan. So we’re trying to change that.”

Volunteers Help 12 More Palestinians Escape Gaza

Protestors outside US Embassy in Reykjavík

Twelve more Palestinians, comprised mostly of children, have been assisted by Icelandic volunteers in fleeing Gaza. All of them are Icelandic residence permit holders.

Part of a continuing effort

As reported, Icelandic civilian volunteers have been traveling to and from Egypt since early February, traveling to the Egyptian border with Gaza near the town of Rafah in an effort to help the over 100 Icelandic residence permit holders there get out of Gaza and come to Iceland. The matter is especially urgent as Israeli forces have been actively bombarding the town.

One family arrived last week, about a week after another Palestinian family reunited here, and there has been an ongoing fundraiser to help assist with extraneous expenses in their travel and arrival.

Mostly children, sick and injured

Sema Erla Serdaroglu, the founder and president of the refugee and asylum seeker rights group Solaris, announced on Facebook that another group of Palestinians, twelve in all, had been assisted by Icelandic volunteers in getting out of Gaza.

As with previous Palestinians assisted by Icelandic volunteers, all of them have residence permits in Iceland, but in this case most of them are reportedly sick and injured children and their family members. In addition, another 17 Icelandic residence permit holders in Gaza are reportedly next in line to leave Gaza–of them, 14 are children.

“History will judge you”

Sema concluded her post by praising the efforts of all volunteers involved, and the Icelandic public who have been supporting their efforts, while criticising the Icelandic government for “standing by”, adding, “We will never forget. We will not forgive. History will judge you!”

Three representatives of the Foreign Ministry of Iceland went to Cairo earlier this month, ostensibly to meet with Egyptian officials about retrieving the remaining Icelandic residence permit holders from Gaza–following an example already set by other Nordic countries–but as yet there have been no major developments on that front.

Deep North News: To Move, Or Not To Move, Back To Grindavík

In this episode of Deep North News, business leaders and union officials have some very different ideas about whether or not to move back to Grindavík, where earthquakes and eruptions have done substantial damage to the town–and are very likely not done with the town yet.

Meanwhile, the Icelandic government is also pushing for new measures regarding asylum seekers and expanded police powers; parliamentarians want the Turkish Abductions investigated, genetically; a new app is here for learning Icelandic, and lots more.

NOTE: You can get the app, BÍN-kjarninn, on both the Apple App Store and Google Play. It is referred to as the DMII Core in this podcast, on account of the English name used for it on the Árnastofnun website.

Deep North News brings you all of Iceland’s top stories, every week, with the context and background you need. Be sure to like, follow and subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode!

Palestinian Family Arrives in Iceland

Palestine protest February 5 2024

A mother and three daughters from Gaza have at last landed in Iceland, Vísir reports, having arrived last Friday. They were soon after reunited with the husband and father of this family, who has lived in Iceland for two years now.

The mother and her children are amongst the Palestinians that Icelandic volunteers currently in Egypt are trying to get out of Gaza via the Palestinian border town of Rafah. All four of them already had Icelandic residence permits.

As has been reported, there are just over 100 Palestinians in Gaza who have Icelandic residence permits and have been trying to get out of the region. While government officials either said they had no obligation to help them, or called the process “complicated”, some Icelandic civilians have taken matters into their own hands and opted to travel to Egypt themselves to help these families cross the border into Egypt.

Shortly thereafter, official from Iceland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs traveled to Cairo to meet with Egyptian officials on how to rescue the remaining Icelandic residence permit holders in Gaza.

This marks the second family rescued by volunteers who have arrived in Iceland so far. Earlier this month, a mother and her three sons were assisted in getting out of Gaza and arrived in Iceland shortly thereafter.

What progress Icelandic government officials are making in Egypt still remains to be seen, but in the meantime, volunteer efforts will likely continue.

Icelandic Farmers Experience More Signs of Stress and Depression

Newly concluded research conducted by the University of Akureyri for the Icelandic Regional Development Institute (Byggðastofnun) indicates that Icelandic farmers show more signs and symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression than the average Icelander.

The research was conducted via an online survey, and then compared to similar research conducted by the Directorate of Health in 2022 that measured the same traits in Icelanders overall. The results showed that depression and stress in particular were predominant amongst Icelandic farmers, even when compared to other Icelanders in the labour market.

The research also showed evidence that farmers who plan to change jobs or move experience more symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety. However, it should be noted that due to the small number of respondents, there is great statistical uncertainty about how big the difference really is between this subset and those farmers who are not making such plans.

A major contributing factor in these results was workload. A large proportion of farmers think they either very often or always have too much work to do. At the same time, a large proportion of respondents also believed they had to work with great speed.

The full report, in Icelandic, can be read here (.pdf).

New Road Being Built for Access to Blue Lagoon and Grindavík

The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration (IRCA) is currently working on the construction of a new road within the lava-protected area of Svartsengi, including Grindavík and the Blue Lagoon. This news was made public via an announcement from IRCA.

Recent eruptions have caused lava to partially flow over two primary roads connecting both the Reykjanes town of Grindavík and the Blue Lagoon to other major highways: Grindavíkirvegur and Bláalónsvegur. The new road will enable drivers to drive from Grindavíkirvegur to Bláalónsvegur via a new route connected to Nesvegur, located just west of the town.

The new road construction is crucial, as the Blue Lagoon has opened again. Although seismic activity in the area has been relatively stable, there have been signs of the surface rising again, which could mean an eruption as early as late February or early March.

Due to this new route being built within the dirt wall fortifications being used to hold back lava, travel to both Grindavík and the Blue Lagoon may continue unhindered in the event of an eruption. This is highly conditional, however; eruptions are notoriously unpredictable, and the previous one did result in fissures opening on both sides of and even within these fortifications.

IRCA is hopeful that the new route will be operational as early as this coming week.

Deep North News: Iceland much smaller than previously estimated

In this episode of Deep North News, we report on some happy news, as more Palestinians have been rescued from Gaza with the help of ordinary Icelandic citizens. The news comes as Foreign Ministry officials from Iceland are currently in Cairo meeting with Egyptian officials on how to rescue the remaining one hundred or so Icelandic residence permit holders from Gaza.

Also, it turns out we overestimated our population – by about 14,000 people. How that happened and how that was fixed explained within. We’ve also got the latest on Grindavík, a tragic mystery in East Iceland, weather, road conditions, and much more!

Deep North News brings you all of Iceland’s top stories, every week, with the context and background you need. Be sure to like, follow and subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode!

Palestinian Family Deported To Greece

Palestine protest Feb 5 2024

A Palestinian family comprised of a married couple and their 23-year-old son was taken into police custody early Saturday morning and deported to Greece yesterday, Vísir reports. RÚV reports that Icelanders protested in front of police headquarters en masse upon receiving news of the arrest, which was reportedly conducted by armed special forces.

The family had applied for international protection in Iceland, but were denied, and as such were told they had to leave the country or be deported to Greece.

Point of entry

Greece is a major point of entry for refugees fleeing Middle Eastern countries. Greek authorities will more often than not require these people to apply for international protection in Greece in order to enter the country, or be turned away. For this reason, asylum seekers who want to enter Europe through Greece will usually opt to apply for protection there, even if they have no intentions of staying in the country. Conditions in Greece for asylum seekers have been repeatedly criticised by international organisations.

Icelandic immigration authorities will typically not examine applications for international protection if the applicants have been granted protection elsewhere, and so those granted protection in Greece are very often deported to that country–even if the applicant only applied in order to enter Europe.

Special forces involved

The arrest itself was, according to an Icelander close to the family, conducted violently. Special forces reportedly burst into the family’s home in the early morning hours, ordered them to remain still, and then handcuffed the son, who was remanded into custody. The mother was allowed to pack a bag of some belongings but the couple were also escorted out by police.

The family remained in police custody until Sunday morning, when they were taken to Keflavík International Airport. Within hours, they were put on a plane to Greece. Meanwhile, the Icelandic Foreign Ministry has sent representatives to Egypt regarding Icelandic residence permit holders currently in Gaza.