Over 13,000 people visited the ongoing eruption in Iceland’s Meradalir valley over the weekend. A significant number of them were ill-prepared for the challenging 14-kilometre [8.7-mile] hike, according to Search and Rescue crews. The Icelandic government has promised to hire rangers to monitor the site, but they would only be a drop in the ocean of what is needed to manage the constant flow of visitors, says Bogi Adolfsson, head of the ICE-SAR Division Þorbjörn.
Many jobs that need doing
“We’ve ended up doing a lot of different things, managing the parking lot, directing traffic, assisting police, transport this and that [injured visitor], giving them our packed lunch, it’s gone that far,” Bogi told RÚV.
“Rangers help a lot, but two, or two full-time equivalents, I don’t know which it is [that the government has promised], is in my opinion just half of what’s needed. It’s a drop in the ocean.” Bogi stated he wanted to see more police stationed at the site, but that would require strengthening the local police division.
Search and rescue trained for emergency response, not long-term monitoring
Since the Meradalir eruption began on August 3, over 35 search and rescue crews involving some 350 people had taken part in projects connected to the eruption site. The majority of search and rescue crew members are volunteers.
In a lengthy Facebook post, ICE-SAR Director Otti Sigmarsson pointed out that monitoring a tourist site full-time was outside of the typical role of search and rescue teams. Like Bogi, Otti called on strengthening the local police force, more funding to the Civil Protection Department, rangers, and other initiatives to take over the daily monitoring of the site from search and rescue volunteers, who could then focus on their usual role at the eruption site: responding to emergencies.
While authorities have underlined that the hike to the Meradalir eruption is not for the inexperienced or the ill-prepared, that has not stopped some from setting out to see the lava without proper equipment or even food or water. Children under 12 years of age have officially been banned access to the site, however, Iceland Review saw several toddler-age children on the hiking path yesterday.
Read more about what you need to know before hiking to the Meradalir eruption.