After the Avalanche

Westfjords avalanche

In January 1995, an avalanche hit the small town of Súðavík in the Westfjords. The town was decimated, and out of the 227 inhabitants, 14 people died. Some were rescued, including a teenage boy who spent 23 hours buried under the snow.

In October that same year, another avalanche hit Flateyri, a town of 350 people about a half an hour’s drive away. This time, 20 people were lost. The two avalanches were not only a blow to those affected, but to the nation as a whole. In the decades since, energy and funds have been spent building up anti-avalanche earthworks to prevent such disasters from happening again.

This content is only visible under subscription. Subscribe here or log in.

Continue reading

New Proposal Calls for Overhaul of Avalanche Barriers

Flateyri after avalanche

According to a new government proposal, improvements to avalanche barriers will be made in ten different places in Iceland over the next ten years, RÚV reports. The plan aims to finalise avalanche protection in densely populated at-risk areas.

Plan of Action

Last week, the government introduced a new plan for strengthening Iceland’s infrastructure. The proposal comes in the wake of an exceptionally inclement winter; two storms battered Iceland in December and February, revealing weaknesses in Iceland’s energy grid and telecommunications system, among other things. Three avalanches also swept through the Westfjords in January, exposing deficiencies in local avalanche barriers.

Avalanche Protection

The new government proposal aims to finalise avalanche protection in Iceland; the avalanches that struck Flateyri and Súgandafjörður in January highlighted the fact that resources from the Landslide Fund had over the years been employed for other purposes and that avalanche protection had been lagging. The plan calls for the finalisation of avalanche protection by the year 2030.

Over the next five years, improvements will be made to avalanche barriers in Patreksfjörður, Hnífsdalur, Flateyri, Siglufjörður, Seyðisfjörður, Neskaupstaður, and Eskifjörður. Between 2025 and 2030, construction in Flateyri and Siglufjörður will be completed while work will be continued in the areas mentioned above, including Tálknafjörður, Bíldudalur, and Ólafsvík.

If the timeline holds, the strengthening of avalanche barriers in densely populated at-risk area will be completed 25 years earlier than initially expected, the government’s website states.