Limited Reentry to Grindavík, Overnight Stays Discouraged

Grindavik from above

The eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula remains stable with limited seismic activity. Business owners and residents in Grindavík will be allowed to enter the town today, but authorities advise against overnight stays due to gas pollution and the proximity of lava to protective barriers.

Advise against overnight stays

Business owners and residents in Grindavík are permitted to enter the town today. In an interview with RÚV this morning, Úlfar Lúðvíksson, Police Chief of Suðurnes, advised against overnight stays.

“The night was calm, and the number of responders in Grindavík was minimal, but we always maintain the same level of readiness in the town. There is a police presence around the clock,” Úlfar observed.

Úlfar added that individuals affiliated with local businesses could enter Grindavík today to save valuables as they did yesterday. He also expects residents who urgently need to enter Grindavík to have the opportunity.

“Residents should be aware that there is gas pollution in the town. Lava is close to the protective barriers on the western side of the town, so I strongly advise against staying overnight,” Úlfar stated.

No significant changes

No significant changes occurred in the eruption on the Reykjanes Peninsula overnight. Seismic activity in the area is limited, and the volcanic tremor (gosórói) has remained relatively stable.

According to information received by Vísir from the Icelandic Meteorological Office lava continues to flow into the same pond as it did yesterday, although visibility deteriorated somewhat late yesterday night.

Speaking to Mbl.is yesterday, Benedikt Gunnar Ófeigsson, head of deformation measurements at the Icelandic Meteorological Office, estimated the rate of lava flow at approximately 50 cubic metres per second.

In an interview with Mbl.is this morning, Böðvar Sveinsson, a natural hazards specialist with the Icelandic Meteorological Office, stated that no further information was available on the rate of lava flow as of this morning.

In a Facebook post yesterday, the South Iceland Volcano and Natural Hazard Group (Eldfjalla- og náttúruvárhópur Suðurlands) published a map of the lava spread.

 

STI Reduction Hopes Pinned on New Discreet Testing App

New testing app launched by Landspítalinn

The National University Hospital of Iceland has launched an app to discreetly test for sexually transmitted infections. Users complete a questionnaire, receive a barcode for a sample kit, and get their results directly through the app.

“There’s an app for that”

If you are residing in Iceland and concerned about a possible sexually transmitted infection but prefer to avoid potentially uncomfortable face-to-face consultations with healthcare providers, there is a discreet and convenient solution: a dedicated app.

The app was recently released by the National University Hospital of Iceland (Landspítalinn) and aimed at reducing the prevalence of chlamydia and gonorrhoea in the country.

According to an announcement on Landspítali’s website, users seeking the clinic’s services can simply complete a questionnaire within the app. Upon completion, they will receive a barcode that grants access to a smart box at the clinic. This smart box contains a sample collection kit along with detailed instructions. After the sample is submitted, the test results will be delivered directly to the app.

In an interview published on the hospital’s website, Chief physician Elísabet Reykdal Jóhannesdóttir was hopeful that the app would increase the likelihood of individuals getting tested: “We have, so far, not managed to reduce chlamydia rates in Iceland, but I’m excited to see whether this app will help us in this regard.”

In the event of more pressing issues, nurses at the National University’s Dermatology and Sexually Transmitted Infections outpatient clinic will refer patients directly to doctors: “If it’s more serious, something that requires immediate attention, the nurses will react quickly and book an appointment with a doctor on the next day.”

Police Use Pepper Spray Against Demonstrators

palestine protest

Police used pepper spray against a group of demonstrators in downtown Reykjavík today. Police contend they needed to do so in order to keep protesters from blocking ministerial vehicles and to leave the area, but some videos taken at the scene show pepper spray being used after these vehicles were already cleared, and against protesters who did not appear to be resisting.

Organised demonstration

The protest was organised in part by the Iceland-Palestine Association to take place at Skuggasund this morning, in an area where a meeting of government ministers was being held. One of the protesters, Salvör Gullbrá Þórarinsdóttir, told RÚV that about 150 protesters were in attendance.

“When the ministerial vehicles came to pick up the ministers, protesters laid down in the front of the cars as an act of protest, to delay the ministers,” she said. “They were pepper sprayed by the police.”

Orders given, orders ignored

Arnar Rúnar Marteinsson of the Capital Area Police does not dispute this version of events, telling RÚV that they had ordered the protesters to leave the area and move out of the way of vehicles.

“We had to use [the pepper spray] in order to clear the street so we wouldn’t have ministerial vehicles blocked in here,” he said. He added that they did not use clubs against the demonstrators, “so no demonstrators were injured”. That said, between 20 to 30 protesters went to hospital for treatment following being pepper sprayed.

Videos at the scene

Some of those who were present for this demonstration took photos and videos of what transpired. In some cases, protesters laying down in front of vehicles are pepper sprayed, but in other instances the pepper spraying occurs after ministerial vehicles have left, and against people who do not appear to be resisting.

The demonstrators’ demands are similar to those who were a part of yesterday’s sit-in at the Foreign Ministry: the imposition of trade sanctions against and the severing of diplomatic ties with Israel.

Body of Man Who Fell in Fnjóská River Discovered

Fog over Draflastaðir in Fnjóskadalur

The body of the man in his twenties who fell into the Fnjóská River yesterday evening has been discovered. Rescue workers had searched for the man through the night, with challenging conditions hampering their efforts.

Man’s body discovered

At 6.30 PM yesterday, a search began for a man in his twenties who had fallen into the Fnjóská River in the Fnjóskadalur valley in northern Iceland.

Two ambulances from the Akureyri Fire Department and rescue teams were involved in the search. Assistance from a Coast Guard helicopter was also requested.

According to a statement from the North East Iceland Police this morning, responders had continued to search for the man throughout the night but to no avail, Vísir reports. The man was with three friends when he disappeared into the river.

The statement from the police indicated that the search would continue today and that assistance from rescue teams in the capital area had been requested.

“Conditions at the site are challenging; the river is very murky, and the search area is extensive, particularly near the river’s mouth,” the police statement says, noting that further information about the search will be provided as the day progresses.

The man’s body was discovered before noon today, Vísir reports.

This article was updated at 12.40 PM.

Sit-In in Support of Palestine at Iceland’s Foreign Ministry

Sit-in for Palestine May 30, 2024 at Iceland's Foreign Ministry. Photo: Kata Jóhanness

A group of protesters has begun a sit-in at Iceland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs due to Icelandic authorities’ lack of action on Palestine, RÚV reports. The group is not from a single organisation, rather is a diverse group of civilians who say they are fed up with Iceland’s lack of action and aim to disrupt business as usual until the government reacts. Their demands include that trade sanctions be imposed on Israel and that the Icelandic government sever diplomatic relations with the country.

“It’s been 234 days of an escalating genocide of Palestinian people and Icelandic authorities have done nothing to prevent it,” Salvör Gullbrá Þórarinsdóttir, one of the protesters, told reporters. “The government has said that they want a ceasefire in Gaza and kept saying that they aim for peace and a two-state solution but those are all empty words and they are not followed by any actions.”

Protesters request meeting with minister

Salvör Gullbrá says that the recent attack of the Israeli army on Rafah where civilians were killed was the last straw. “A horrifying attack where people were burned alive.” Salvör says that the protest will continue until the government takes action. The group has asked for a meeting with Foreign Minister Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir and has not been granted meetings with any ministry staff at this point.

“It’s is very clear that the Icelandic public wants a ceasefire in Palestine and supports Palestinian people,” Salvör stated. “This is apparent in various surveys that have been conducted about the public’s dissatisfaction when Iceland abstained on a ceasefire vote last October.” Salvör also pointed to the controversy surrounding Iceland’s participation in the 2024 Eurovision Song Contest on the same grounds.

Demand sanctions and coordinated action

The protester’s demands are as follows:

  1. That trade sanctions be imposed on the State of Israel.
  2. That Iceland sever diplomatic relations with the State of Israel.
  3. That Iceland support South Africa’s lawsuit against Israel before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
  4. That Minister for Foreign Affairs Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir initiate a discussion on coordinated actions with the Nordic countries, Ireland, and Spain.

Norway, Ireland, and Spain officially recognised the State of Palestine recently, an action Iceland was the first among Nordic countries to do so, in 2011. The Iceland-Palestine Association is echoing those first two demands in a protest to be held in outside the regular cabinet meeting tomorrow morning.

Katrín and Halla Neck and Neck in Most Recent Presidential Poll

Halla Hrund Logadóttir, Halla Tómasdóttir, and Katrín Jakobsdóttir

Just two days until Iceland’s presidential election and Katrín Jakobsdóttir and Halla Tómasdóttir are neck and neck in Maskína’s latest poll, released today. Both received 24.1% support in the poll, conducted between May 27 and May 30. This presidential race has been a close and exciting one, with a record number of candidates, several of whom still appear to have a shot at the presidency. The poll was conducted for Vísir, Stöð 2, and Bylgjan.

Katrín’s following shrinks, Halla’s grows

While Katrín’s following dropped slightly from Maskína’s last poll, released on May 23, Halla Tómasdóttir’s rose significantly. The third-place candidate, according to the poll’s results, is Halla Hrund Logadóttir, with 18.4%. Halla Hrund also saw a rise in her following compared to last week’s poll. The top three candidates are followed by Baldur Þórhallsson with 15.4% support, Jón Gnarr with 9.9% support and Arnar Þór Jónsson with 5.0% support. The remaining six candidates have a combined 3.2%.

Many voters decide last minute

Ólafur Þ. Harðarson, professor emeritus in political science who has decades of experience leading research on Icelandic elections, stated that this Presidential race is the most exciting one since Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was narrowly elected in 1980 to become the first democratically-elected female head of state in the world. Polls have shown significant shifts in following in recent weeks, and according to Ólafur, research has shown an increasing number of voters make up their minds last-minute.

Read more about Iceland’s 2024 presidential candidates.

Iceland’s Latest Eruption Continues at Lower Intensity

eruption lava volcano Reykjanes eruption May 2024

The eruption that began yesterday around 12:45 PM on the Reykjanes peninsula continues but it has decreased considerably in intensity, RÚV reports. It is the eighth eruption on Southwest Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula since 2021 and the fifth in the area north of Grindavík since December. The eruption has no impact on international travel through Iceland.

Yesterday morning, the town of Grindavík, the Blue Lagoon, and Svartsengi Power Station were evacuated as seismic activity indicated an eruption was imminent. What began shortly afterwards was the most powerful eruption the area has experienced since activity began in 2021. The eruption has already decreased in intensity since then, however.

Lava from the eruption cut off two roads yesterday, Grindavíkurvegur and Nesvegur, but lava barriers have successfully prevented it from entering the town of Grindavík. Gas from the eruption is minimal and has not impacted air quality in the Reykjavík capital area. Experts say that no other roads or infrastructure are at risk for the time being.

Additional information on tourist safety

For more information on tourist safety on the Reykjanes peninsula, see our latest In Focus Article.

“With four eruptions in the Sundhnúkagígar crater system during this spell, it’s no wonder that prospective tourists have been asking themselves if it’s still safe to visit Iceland. The short answer is ‘yes, absolutely.’ The long answer is ‘yes, but use common sense!’”

You can also watch a video of our visit to the eruption area here.

VIDEO: A Visit to the Eruption Area

Yesterday, reporter Alína Mauer and photographer Art Bicnick paid a visit to Reykjanes, minutes after an eruption began northeast of Sýlingafell. Join us as we explore the area, what has happened, and what may develop from this point onward.

You can read our continuing eruption coverage here, and also learn a bit about safety when it comes to dealing with eruption sites in our latest In Focus piece here.

Eruption Surpasses Previous Lava Flow Rates

Lava and plumes from the May 2024 eruption in Reykjanes

Increased seismic activity near the Sundhnúkar craters led to an eruption northeast of Sýlingafell on the Reykjanes peninsula just before 1 PM today. The eruption – believed to be the largest of recent eruptions with lava flows reaching 1,500 to 2,000 cubic metres per second – has covered over 5 square kilometres and crossed Grindavíkurvegur road.

Signs of an imminent eruption

As reported by IR this morning, increased seismic activity earlier today near the Sundhnúkar craters, north of the town of Grindavík on the Reykjanes peninsula, indicated a possible imminent volcanic eruption.

Evacuations were subsequently initiated in Grindavík, with police and emergency responders assisting residents, primarily workers in the harbour area, to leave safely. The Blue Lagoon and the Svartsengi Power Station were also evacuated.

An eruption begins

At just before 1 PM today, an eruption finally began northeast of Sýlingafell, north of Grindavík. The National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police, in consultation with the Chief of Police in Suðurnes, subsequently declared a state of emergency.

The eruption plumes were initially believed to reach at least 50 metres in height, and the length of the fissure was estimated at over 1 kilometre. The fissure is currently estimated to be approximately 4 kilometres in length.

Surpassing previous lava flow rates

Speak to Vísir this afternoon, Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson, a professor of geophysics, observed that the lava from the eruption was flowing at a rate of about 1,500 to 2,000 cubic metres per second, the highest rate in the Reykjanes Peninsula eruptions to date.

Geophysicist Benedikt Ófeigsson told RÚV that the eruption had been very powerful and produced greater lava flow than previously seen in the eruption series beginning in December of 2023, given that there was more magma in the magma chamber beneath Svartstengi (approximately 20 million cubic metres) compared to previous eruptions.

“This is reflected in the enormous lava flow. The lava has reached the protective barriers west of Grindavík,” Benedikt stated.

Mayor of Grindavík concerned

Speaking to RÚV this afternoon, Fannar Jónasson, the mayor of Grindavík, expressed his concern over the magnitude of the eruption. “There is a much larger volume of lava heading towards the town now, and the protective barriers are directing it westwards and eastwards.”

Having monitored previous eruptions closely, Fannar noted that the current eruption appeared much more extensive compared to previous eruptions.

When asked if he was worried that the protective barriers around Grindavík would fail, Fannar responded thusly: “We must expect that if the eruption continues in this manner, something has to give,” Fannar stated, adding that the speed of the lava flow seemed “incredible.”

Fannar told RÚV that he hoped that the volcanic activity would either cease or move away from structures and populated areas. “We can’t do anything but hope and prepare for this to continue, but only time will tell how it will progress,” Fannar concluded by stating.

Strength of the eruption expected to abate

Speaking to RÚV, Magnús Tumi added that he expected that the eruption would start to abate soon. “Because already more than half of the magma that had accumulated there, over 20 million cubic meters, has been expelled,” Magnús told RÚV.

As noted by Vísir, the lava had covered approximately 5 to 5.5 square kilometres in the approximately hour and a half since the eruption began, having also crossed the road that leads to the town of Grindavík.

No electricity in Grindavík

The energy company HS Orka cut electricity to the town of Grindavík at just past 3 PM today given that lava was flowing towards a high-voltage transmission line.

An hour later, power poles supporting the overhead line that connects electricity from the Svartsengi Power Plant to Grindavík were in flames, RÚV reports. Representatives of the utility company HS Veitur are not optimistic that the line will survive.

As noted by RÚV, the Svartsengi line is the only main power line into the town of Grindavík. “There were hopes that by elevating the line, it would remain intact if the lava flowed over Grindavíkurvegur road, but this does not seem likely,” RÚV reports.

Additional information on tourist safety

For more information on tourist safety on the Reykjanes peninsula, see our latest In Focus Article.

“With four eruptions in the Sundhnúkagígar crater system during this spell, it’s no wonder that prospective tourists have been asking themselves if it’s still safe to visit Iceland. The short answer is ‘yes, absolutely.’ The long answer is ‘yes, but use common sense!’”

You can watch a video of our visit to the eruption area here.

This article was updated at 4:28 PM.

Eruption Begins on Reykjanes Peninsula, North of Grindavík

eruption

A volcanic eruption has begun northeast of Sýlingafell on the Reykjanes peninsula, as confirmed by the Icelandic Meteorological Office. The town of Grindavík, the Blue Lagoon, and the Svartsengi Power Station were successfully evacuated this morning.

Eruption begins in Sunhnúksgígaröð

An eruption has begun northeast of Sýlingafell on the Reykjanes peninsula, according to an announcement from the Icelandic Meteorological Office. “A volcanic eruption has begun near Sundhnúkar, north of Grindavík. It is visible on webcams and appears to be located northeast of Sýlingafell.”

As noted by the MET Office, the eruption plumes reach at least 50 metres in height, and the length of the fissure appears to be over 1 kilometre. A Coast Guard helicopter is expected to take off shortly to confirm the exact location and size of the eruption. Vísir reports that the current eruption appears to be taking place at the same location as the previous eruption.

“More detailed information will be available soon,” the announcement from the MET Office states. “The aviation colour code has been raised to red until further details about ash dispersion are available.”

The National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police, in consultation with the Chief of Police in Suðurnes, has decided to declare a state of emergency due to the volcanic eruption, Vísir reports.

Grindavík and the Blue Lagoon evacuated

As reported by IR this morning, increased seismic activity near the Sundhnúkar craters on the Reykjanes peninsula earlier today indicated a possible imminent volcanic eruption.

Evacuations subsequently began in Grindavík, where police and emergency responders assisted residents, primarily workers in the harbour area, to leave safely. The Blue Lagoon and the Svartsengi Power Station were also successfully evacuated.

Read More: Grindavík, Blue Lagoon Evacuated as Eruption Appears Imminent

Additional information on tourist safety

For more information on tourist safety on the Reykjanes peninsula, see our latest In Focus Article.

“With four eruptions in the Sundhnúkagígar crater system during this spell, it’s no wonder that prospective tourists have been asking themselves if it’s still safe to visit Iceland. The short answer is ‘yes, absolutely.’ The long answer is ‘yes, but use common sense!’”

You can watch a video of our visit to the eruption area here.

This article was updated at 1:14 PM