Authorities are now working to permanently block off the eastern section of Reynisfjara black sand beach, where a large rockfall from Reynisfjall mountain recently showered the area below, Vísir reports. Experts at the Icelandic Met Office expect another section of the mountain will break off in the near future. The beach is a popular tourist site in South Iceland, known for its basalt rock formations and stunning views.
Mýrdalshreppur Local Council Director Þorbjörg Gísladóttir says the decision has been made to close of the eastern side of the beach permanently, although the council is still examining whether or not that is in fact possible. It may prove difficult to design barriers that can withstand the beach’s strong currents, sneaker waves, and winds. Authorities have discussed installing signs and chains that make it clear visitors who enter the closed area do so at their own risk.
Two tourists were injured on the beach on August 19 by a smaller rockfall from the mountain. The large rock slide occurred one day later, on August 20. Police taped off the area impacted by the rockfall, though some tourists were recorded on video climbing up the impacted area despite the closure.
Main area unaffected
Þorbjörg points out that the area authorities plan to close off is not the part of Reynisfjara most visited by tourists. Most of the beach’s visitors stick to the cave and rock formations on its west end. The closure would therefore have little to no impact on the experience of tourists at the site.
Sneaker waves cause fatal accidents
Apart from the danger posed by crumbling cliffs, Reynisfjara’s “sneaker waves,” have caused fatal accidents at the beach over the years. An American woman died in May 2007 when caught by a wave, and a Chinese man lost his life when he was swept out to sea in February 2016. There have been many close calls besides, as tourists often disbelieve or choose to ignore the posted signage which states, among other things, “Very Dangerous Sea Currents,” “Deadly Sneaker Waves,” and “Never Turn Your Back On the Ocean.”