Considerable damage has been done to the town of Grindavík, on the south coast of Reykjanes, in the wake of two fissure eruptions which began this morning.
Three houses were destroyed by encroaching lava, and the town is without electricity, hot water and cold water, and lava has reported poured over water piping to the town. A message from Grindavík Town Council to the residents called for solidarity and support.
“Our Grindavík community is strong and characterized by unity and resilience,” the statement reads in part. “We need to face the fact that all future plans and projects are uncertain. What matters most for the people of Grindavík is to secure the community in Grindavík and thereby reduce uncertainty as much as possible. People need secure housing, financial, social, and psychological support, as well as services in all areas. We must receive clear answers immediately regarding the resources available to the residents of Grindavík and businesses in Grindavík. It is an absolute priority in our minds.
“Now, more than ever, it is crucial that we look out for each other and support one another. We will tackle this challenge together, and we will get through this.”
Lava dams worked, but more fissures could open
Rescue workers laboured tirelessly to build more earthen walls in order to divert the lava flow from the original eruption, which began at approximately 8:00 this morning, from reaching the town. This effort was successful, with the lava diverted from its location just north of town to the west.
However, another fissure opened at around noon only metres from the very limits of Grindavík. As such, it was impossible to stop the flow of lava from entering the town from this fissure, and it reached the first house it burned at around 2:00 PM. Natural hazard experts consider it not unlikely that more fissures could open still.
Eruption stablising, town badly damaged
Benedikt Halldórsson, expert director of earthquakes at the Icelandic Meteorological Office, told reporters at a press conference held this evening that the eruption appears to have stabilised for the time being.
Víðir Reynisson, department head at Civic Protection, added that considerable damage has been done to Grindavík. The town lost electricity this morning, and lava flow cut off the town’s cold and hot water as well. Land swelling opened crevasses, and in all this constitutes “the most serious threat by eruptions in Iceland since January 1973,” he said, referring to the devastating eruption of Heimaey.
“Not just bent but broken”
Municipal council director of Grindavík Fannar Jónasson told reporters that he has felt a lot of support from Parliament to help the residents of Grindavík as best as possible. The damage to the town infrastructure is such that its some 3,600 residents will be in need of residential, financial and psychological support for months to come.
“These are special circumstances,” he said. “We aren’t just bent; we’re broken. So we need support from the government. We know that the nation stands with us and their warm thoughts mean a lot, but we need extensive support and we need to work hard together.”
Prime Minister and President offer support
Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdóttir said that the government will meet tomorrow to decide on how housing for Grindavík residents will be arranged in the long term. She added that everyone will work together to repair the damage as fast as possible.
She said that challenging times lay before the nation and that solidarity, calm, and compassion must lead the way.
“It is a dark day for Grindavík, and a dark day for Iceland as a whole, but the sun will rise again,” she said. “We will confront this tragedy and do everything we can. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.”
President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson addressed the nation on the matter as well. A historian himself, Guðni referred to Icelandic history in offering words of encouragement, reminding the nation of every tragedy Iceland has faced, and overcome, together.
“This is what we Icelanders do together,” he said. “We do not give up.”
There are numerous ways in which you can provide support for the people of Grindavík, even if you do not live in Iceland. The Icelandic Red Cross has set up a page with donation options for those wishing to lend support. This includes both one-time donations and repeat subscriptions.
For more in-depth coverage on the eruption and its impact, read our Ask Iceland Review article on the subject.