Seyðisfjörður Mudslides: Research Underway to Prevent Further Disasters Skip to content

Seyðisfjörður Mudslides: Research Underway to Prevent Further Disasters

By Yelena

Seyðisfjörður landslide almannavarnir
Photo: Almannavarnadeild Ríkislögreglustjóra. Clean-up efforts in Seyðisfjörður, East Iceland, on December 29, 2020. Several mudslides devastated the town the week before Christmas.

Experts are researching how to prevent further mudslides in Seyðisfjörður, East Iceland through better monitoring systems and defence barriers, RÚV reports. Results from a preliminary investigation into mudslide barriers above the town could be available within a few weeks. A series of mudslides following record rainfall destroyed 14 buildings in the town in December, though thankfully no lives were lost.

Located in a narrow fjord in East Iceland, Seyðisfjörður is often lauded as one of Iceland’s most picturesque towns. It is also the first stop for many of Iceland’s visitors as it is where the Norræna ferry, arriving from mainland Europe, docks.

Ongoing Risk of Mudslides

Around 40 Seyðisfjörður residents spent Christmas in an emergency response centre after they were evacuated from their homes the week before the holiday. Fourteen buildings in the town (pop. 659) were destroyed by the mudslides, many of them historic. A notice from Icelandic Police stated the risk of mudslides is ongoing: a state of danger remains in effect, and part of the town remains evacuated. Warmer weather delayed clean-up operations in the town last weekend as it increases this risk, but the weather has since cooled, allowing crews to recommence their efforts at full capacity.

Local and Foreign Experts Collaborate in Research

Authorities have been aware that Seyðisfjörður faces some risk of mudslides for several years. Last summer, engineering company Efla began to evaluate the best possible options for a defence structure on the mountain slope above the southern part of the town. Water pressure gauges were installed in boreholes as well as fixed measuring points in order to monitor the earth’s movement in the slope. The Icelandic Met Office has since added additional equipment to monitor the area.

A Swiss consulting company has been supporting Efla in its research, and the company has also been in contact with Norwegian experts on landslide monitoring. Preliminary results of this research could be available within a few weeks. It is too early to say when construction of defences will begin, but efforts are being made to speed up the investigative process.

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