Seyðisfjörður Mudslide Sweeps House Off Foundation Skip to content
Photo: Daníel Örn Gíslason. The aerial photo shows where the building used to stand before the mudslide swept it 50 m (164 feet) off its foundation.

Seyðisfjörður Mudslide Sweeps House Off Foundation

During the night, two large mudslides fell on Seyðisfjörður in east Iceland, where heavy rains have caused dangerous conditions for the past week. The larger one swept away a house, which shifted 50 metres off its foundation. Evacuation zones were extended yesterday, but the weather forecast expects the rain to let up tomorrow.

House swept away

Yesterday, the evacuation zone was extended and during the night, two large mudslides fell from Nautaklauf cliff. The first one just after 1 am and another about two hours later, both in the same channel as the largest mudslide last Tuesday. The latter swept away an empty timber house known as Breiðablik and shifted it 50 m off its foundation. The house in question stood within the evacuation zone and is destroyed. After the event, the risk was reassessed and a few buildings more were evacuated. While Seyðisfjörður residents have been away from their homes since Tuesday, they’ve been able to enter their homes with an escort to retrieve personal belongings and necessities. Ten people from the newly evacuated buildings spent the night in the Red Cross Emergency Response Centre but most have been able to find shelter with friends and relatives.

Seyðsfjörður house swept off foundation in mudslide
Bjarki Borgþórsson. The house known as Breiðablik was swept 50 m (164 feet) off its foundation before it hit a petrol station

Extreme rains

Seyðisfjörður saw heavy rain yesterday evening and during the night. While it let up this morning, some rainfall is expected this afternoon. Since December 11, cumulative precipitation is around 650 mm, which is extreme. Water flows through the streets and the town’s sewage system is at capacity. The town’s main street is impassable due to water and mud and people are asked not to travel in town, especially in smaller cars. Seyðisfjörður residents are holding off on pumping water from cellars as evacuation orders are still in effect, and due to the rain, the cellars would likely fill up again quickly.

Seyðisfjörður building swept off foundation in mudslide.
Bjarki Borgþórsson. The building is completely destroyed.

Largest known mudslides but still risk of more

The area is known to have occasional mudslides but the ones this week might be the largest to have ever fallen there, according to the Iceland Meteorological Office’s experts. Despite the large mudslides, there is still loose matter in several spots in the water-saturated mountainside, meaning there’s still a risk of mudslides. With less rain this morning, the risk of mudslides is lower, but more rain is expected in the afternoon before it lets up tomorrow.

Following the mudslides last Tuesday, the conditions of homes were inspected. Even before the mudslides during the night, there was some damage and several houses were flooded with water and mud. The locals report a spirit of solidarity and have been hard at work to clear streets when possible.

No unnecessary travel

Due to infection prevention regulation, the police has issued a request that people avoid unnecessary travel to Seyðisfjörður during the emergency. There have been no COVID-19 infections in east Iceland for a few weeks now and the police request that travellers, reporters, experts, and others hold off travel to Seyðisfjörður so as not to introduce any infections to a town already under great duress.

 

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