Four government ministers are on their way to Seyðisfjörður following devastating mudslides that destroyed at least 10 buildings in the city centre, many historic. Although they have not resulted in injuries, the mudslides led to the town’s evacuation and some residents have not yet been permitted to return home. An “alert phase” remains in effect in Seyðisfjörður due to continued danger of mudslides and an “uncertainty phase” remains in effect for East Iceland due to landslide risk. Extreme rainfall is behind the occurrences.
Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Minister of Transport and Local Government Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson, and Justice Minister Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir flew east this morning to survey the damage caused by the mudslides and speak to locals, RÚV reports. Director of the Civil Protection Department Víðir Reynisson, National Police Commissioner Sigríður Björk Guðjónsdóttir, and CEO of ICE-SAR Jón Svanberg Hjartason accompany the ministers on their trip. The group will tour the affected area as well as speak to local officials and residents, who have been heavily impacted by the events. All were tested for COVID-19 prior to the trip.
While many of the town’s 690 residents have been permitted to return home, nearly 300 have not yet been permitted to do so. Some residents of houses affected by the landslides were, however, permitted to enter their homes yesterday alongside rescue crews to collect belongings. Civil Protection has set up an emergency response centre in the town at Herðubreið Community and Culture House.
Residents Suggest Government Neglect
Seyðisfjörður resident Jonathan Moto Bisagni stated it was a miracle no one was hurt in the mudslides but says more could have been done by the state government to minimise the effects of such a disaster. “I’m not saying that this disaster was avoidable but there could have been better safety protocols to have us evacuated before the mountains fell on us. They could have constructed defenses. It is hard for me to believe that there was even an evacuation plan in place,” Jonathan wrote in a Facebook post. “Speaking with the mayor of our municipality yesterday, he agreed that something should have been done to prevent this but that the funding simply was not there. This impending disaster was identified as a risk 2 years ago. The risk of avalanche took first priority and this landslide risk was put on the back burner.”
Those who would like to support the residents of Seyðisfjörður have been encouraged to donate to the local Search and Rescue organisation and the Red Cross of Seyðisfjörður, which have been helping in response efforts. Donation information can be found here.