Ministers to Visit Flateyri in Wake of Avalanches Skip to content
Bjarni, Katrín, Sigurður Ingi coalition
Photo: Golli. Bjarni, Katrín, and Sigurður Ingi sign the coalition agreement following the 2017 election.

Ministers to Visit Flateyri in Wake of Avalanches

The chairmen of the three coalition parties, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Bjarni Benediktsson, and Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, will travel by helicopter to Flateyri this afternoon, RÚV reports. The ministers intend to survey the damage wrought by two large avalanches that descended upon the town this week.

Significant Damages

Just before midnight on January 15, two large avalanches fell on the town of Flateyri in the Westfjords (and one in Súgandafjörður, as well). Although no one was seriously injured, properties were damaged, and Flateyri’s small-boat harbour was completely destroyed.

Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister and chairman of the Left-Green Party; Bjarni Benediktsson, Minister of Finance and chairman of the Independence Party; and Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, Minister of Transport and Local government, and chair of the Progressive Party, will travel by the coast guard helicopter to Flateyri this afternoon. The ministers will spend the day in the Westfjords, surveying the damage caused by the avalanches, before returning to Reykjavík in the evening.

Representatives from the Icelandic Red Cross and the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management will also be travelling with the ministers, including Hulda Ragnheiður Árnadóttir, director of the National Catastrophe Insurance of Iceland, and Jón Svanberg Hjartarson, director of ICE-SAR.

The Landslide Fund

As RÚV reported this morning, former mayor of Ísafjörður Halldór Halldórsson has criticised the government’s allocation of funds to avalanche protection. As a board member of the Landslide Fund, Halldór estimates that the fund has roughly ISK 23 billion, which could be used to improve avalanche protection throughout the country.

According to Halldór, plans were initially drawn in the aughts that called for the completion of mitigation measures against avalanches in 2010. Later regulation pushed back these plans to 2020. Current plans assume that these measures won’t be finalised until 2050.

“We must prioritise and act quickly … I’m glad that the government has declared that it will examine the protective barriers. Everything needs to be as safe as possible, so that future avalanches won’t flow over the barriers.”

Snow from both of the avalanches that fell in Flateyri this week flowed over two protective barriers, which were constructed following a large avalanche in 1995.

Halldór added that there is much that needs to be done in the Westfjords, in the Eastfjords, and in North Iceland: “I’ve thought a lot about how these protective measures are decided in the eyes of the law. We’re only protecting residential properties, not residential areas or harbours.”

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