River Transport in South Iceland Resumed after Accident Skip to content

River Transport in South Iceland Resumed after Accident

The transport of people and vehicles across the river Múlakvísl in south Iceland will continue today despite an accident which occurred yesterday when a bus carrying 17 travelers, most of them foreign tourists, and two drivers got stuck in the river. They were all brought to safety and now a sturdier vehicle will be used for the river transport.

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Photos courtesy of ICE-SAR.

“It was just a few minutes. We’re talking a quarter of an hour. It wasn’t any longer but it seemed to be an eternity,” Björn Sigurdsson, who was driving the bus, commented to Morgunbladid.

The bridge across Múlakvísl, which was part of the Ring Road, Iceland’s highway no. 1 just east of Vík, was destroyed in glacial flooding from Mýrdalsjökull on Friday night.

The construction of a temporary bridge is going well and is scheduled to be finished next week. Yesterday afternoon, 35 meters of the bridge’s 150-meter base had been placed.

According to a press release from ICE-SAR, the rescue was swift and successful because search and rescue team members were on call on both banks of the river.

The transport across Múlakvísl by bus went smoothly yesterday morning. However, in the early afternoon, the bus got stuck in a deep channel. The water level quickly reached the bus’s windows and it was believed to be at a risk of tipping over.

People climbed up onto the bus’s roof through smashed windows and a truck which had been used to transport vehicles across the river was used to bring the travelers to safety. The rescue took only a few minutes.

Ambulances were called to the scene because some of the passengers had suffered minor injuries. Others were taken to the Red Cross’s mass help center at Kirkjubaejarklaustur.

Otherwise everyone was safe. No one fell into the river, as rumored yesterday. Construction machinery was used to recover the bus.

In Fréttabladid it was pointed out that the river’s channel changes rapidly, even more so due to the ongoing construction of the temporary bridge, and its depth varies. There is also a lot of mud in the river.

A bulldozer from the Icelandic Road Administration will cross the river regularly to secure the safety of travelers and the water level will be monitored closely.

River transport will take place between 7 am to 11 pm if circumstances permit. The service is free of charge.

ICE-SAR has decided to enforce the highland watch on the Fjallabak nyrdri route; the new team will be based at Hólaskjól, in addition to having two teams based on either side of Múlakvísl.

The damage caused by the glacial flood is estimated to cost the Icelandic state ISK 500 million (USD 4.3 million, EUR 3 million).

Geophysicist Magnús Tumi Gudmundsson told Morgunbladid that there are no indications that the flood was caused by an eruption; the volcano Katla lies underneath the Mýrdalsjökull icecap.

The University of Iceland Institute of Earth Sciences is studying what led to the glacial flood. Geothermal heat caused calderas in the glacier to accumulate an extensive amount of meltwater which burst forth from underneath the glacier and into Múlakvísl.

Related stories:

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