Year in Review - Top Stories of 2018 #2 Skip to content
Photo: Rússland Moskva Heimsmeistaramótið í fórbolta Fótbolti.

Year in Review – Top Stories of 2018 #2

Year in Review highlights the most significant news stories of 2018 in Iceland. Part 2 covers April through June.

 

April

Prisoner Escapes and Flees to the Netherlands

Sindri Þór Stefánsson awakened international attention when he escaped from a low-security prison in Southwest Iceland, fleeing to Sweden by plane. Locals couldn’t help but laugh upon learning Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir had been on the same flight. Sindri was being held on suspicion for his alleged part in a robbery of 600 computers which were specially fitted for Bitcoin mining. He was arrested in Amsterdam days after his escape and has since admitted to involvement in the robbery in an ongoing court case.

Midwives Labour for Wage Hike

By April, contract negotiations between the state and the Icelandic Association of Midwives had been in a deadlock for over six months, with midwives asserting that neither their responsibilities nor their educational qualifications were being taken into consideration with respect to their salaries. In the process, over 20 midwives resigned and members of the profession went on strike twice. While the issue came to a head in April, it wasn’t until late July that the two parties finally signed an agreement, when the National University Hospital agreed to reassess the job description and responsibilities of midwives at the institution and apply that to its payroll.

More articles on the Midwife labour struggle: Midwives out of patience, Midwives top working overtime,

May

Countrywide Municipal Elections

Iceland held municipal elections around the country on May 26, which led to significant political shifts around the country. In Reykjavík, however, the status quo more or less held, with Dagur B. Eggertsson continuing as mayor in a four-party majority. Many municipalities found themselves without a leader after ballots were cast, as an independent mayor was a condition many councils set during majority negotiations that followed the election. While in some municipalities around the country, brand-new parties took the lead thanks to a focus on local issues, in Reykjavík the Socialist Party won their first ever seat. Significantly, the capital’s city council now also boasts a record high female-male ratio.

Reykjavík’s Rain Record Broken

Reykjavík residents could not afford to leave their raincoats and umbrellas at home this past May. The month was the rainiest on record in Reykjavík city, as the city saw 127.8 mm of rain during the month. The previous record was set in 1989 when the city saw 126 mm of rain during the month. The springtime was unfavourable to the capital city residents as the month was unusually cold, to boot.

Population of Iceland Reaches 350,000

Iceland reached a milestone in May 2018. Statistics Iceland reported that the Icelandic population surpassed 350,000 for the first time ever. Just less than two-thirds of the population live in the capital area of Reykjavík, 224,000 in total, while 126,700 people live in the rest of the country.

 

June

Travellers’ Safety/Off-Road Driving

Summer is high season for Icelandic tourism, and as the temperatures rose (somewhat) so did tourist numbers. Increasing the safety of travellers in harsh Icelandic conditions is an ongoing struggle for the nation, and that was as true in 2018 as in past years. In late June, Search and Rescue teams received four calls from the highlands in just over 24 hours from tourists who had underestimated the difficulty of the area’s weather and conditions. Another two travellers in the highlands flipped a jeep when approaching a river crossing (they were thankfully unharmed). Authorities are stepping up preventative efforts, for example by installed wave-monitoring equipment at popular tourist site Reynisfjara beach, where dangerous “sneaker waves” have proved deadly in the past.

Iceland Takes on First World Cup

Iceland national men’s football team filled the nation’s hearts with pride as they played their first-ever World Cup this June. Public streaming of the games was set up on big screens across the country, while some locals even went as far as cancelling weddings that conflicted with match times. Strákarnir okkar (our boys) managed an impressive 1-1 draw in their first match, against Argentina. The match became the most watched sports event in Icelandic TV history, with 66% viewership across the nation. Though the team did not make it past the group stage, their fans around the world expressed pride in the achievements of the smallest ever nation to make it to the tournament. Prime Minster Katrín Jakobsdóttir tweeted “It’s been extremely inspiring for all of us in Iceland to see how your belief in the team and its possible success despite the odds, has carried you this far. Congratulations, dear boys!”

Least Sunny June in 30 Years

In 2018, Reykjavík experienced its least sunny June in 30 years. A mere 71 hours of sunshine were recorded in the capital that month. Previously, the lowest number of solar hours to have been documented (since statistics started being kept in 1914) occurred in June 1988. The average temperature throughout the country in June was a clammy 8.6°C (47°F), making it the coldest June on record in a century, although colder temperatures were recorded in the Reykjavík area in June 1997. This dim and cold June came on the heels of Reykjavík’s rainiest May ever, which did not feature a single day without rainfall. The capital received 128.8mm (5.07in) of rain in May, beating out the previous record of 126mm (4.96in) from 1989.

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