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Search for German tourists called off

Search teams packed up and left Svínafellsjökull glacier on Saturday night after having searched for two lost German tourists since early last week. Search organizers are going to let their teams rest and review the situation.

“We are going to go through our documents and review the evidence again to make sure we followed up on every lead,” Vídir Reynisson, the representative of the Commissioner of the Icelandic Police, who is leading the search expedition, told Fréttabladid.

Experienced mountaineers have searched on and around Svínafellsjökull glacier, a sub-glacier of Öraefajökull on Vatnajökull, in the hills of Hvannadalshnjúkur, Iceland’s highest peak, and Hrútafjallstindar peaks for the last few days.

On Saturday, almost 200 people searched in 23 groups from daybreak until nightfall. A Coast Guard helicopter, TF-Gná, brought the search teams up to the glacier to save time and searched by air.

According to Reynisson, the area has been searched as thoroughly as possible. “The teams have grown extremely tired and some have hiked the glacier for four days in a row and searched for hours at high altitudes. People need to rest before we continue.”

The two young German tourists, Thomas Grundt and Matthias Hinz, were reported missing on August 17, but no one has heard from them since the beginning of August. Their tents were discovered on Svínafellsjökull glacier on Thursday, but since then there has been no sign of them.

The case of the lost Germans has raised questions as to whether tourists who hike in Iceland’s highlands are taking enough precautions.

Ragnar Stefánsson, the park ranger in Skaftafell National Park and leader of the emergency service Kári í Öraefum, wants to obligate people who plan to hike Öraefajökull glacier to submit a planned itinerary.

“Many mountaineers think it limits one’s sense of freedom, but I think it demonstrates a certain level of curtsey towards emergency services,” Stefánsson said.

Skaftafell National Park, the 112 Emergency Helpline, the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue (ICE-SAR) and several parties within the tourism industry are preparing a brochure, after encouragement from Stefánsson, with information about the dangers involved in hiking Öraefajökull, recommending hikers submit a planned itinerary to 112 before embarking on their journey.

At this time of year, there are many deep crevasses in the glacier.

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