Drinking Water Pipe to Westman Islands Damaged Beyond Repair

Heimaey, Westman Islands

The pipe that transports drinking water to the Westman Islands has been damaged beyond repair. While the pipe is still fully functional, it could break at any moment, leaving Heimaey island’s 4,523 inhabitants without water. The pipe was damaged ten days ago when the trawler Huginn VE unintentionally dropped an anchor on it, which then got stuck on the pipe.

Pipe must be replaced

A notice from the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management states that the damage to the pipe stretches across a 300-metre [980-foot] section. Underwater pictures taken to assess the damage show that the pipe has shifted significantly from its former location. “This situation makes the possibility of a temporary repair difficult,” the notice reads. “The only permanent solution is a new pipe.”

The National Police Commissioner and the Chief Superintendent of the Westman Islands have jointly declared a “danger phase” in effect for the Westman Islands due to the situation. Íris Róbertsdóttir, the local mayor, told RÚV that a response plan is in the works to lay down new piping, which she insists will need to be done by next summer at the latest.

Town will not be evacuated

For the time being, there is no need for Westman Islands residents to save or store water. The town’s water tanks store 5,000 tonnes of drinking water, which could last anywhere from several days to over a week if the water pipe does break fully. The local heating is also dependent on the water supply. Westman Islands’ Chief Superintendent Karl Gauti Hjaltason stated that if the damaged water pipe does break, the town would be able to continue heating homes and buildings for up to two weeks with its stored water.

If additional water is necessary, the current plan is to transport it to the Westman islands rather than evacuate residents. The town authorities are, however, reviewing evacuation plans.

Risk of Avalanche in Patreksfjörður and Ísafjörður

A danger phase is in effect in the towns of Patreksfjörður and Ísafjörður, in the Westfjords, due to the risk of avalanches. RÚV reports that some industrial buildings in Ísafjörður have been evacuated as well as some residential buildings in Patreksfjörður. Two farms in the northern Westfjords have also been evacuated due to the risk. Extreme weather has hit the region and blizzards and strong winds are expected to continue into tomorrow.

Read More: Avalanche Risk in the Westfjords and North Iceland

Avalanches fell in Skutulsfjörður, Álftafjörður, and Önundafjörður in the Northern Westfjords over last weekend. An avalanche fell on the barriers above Patreksfjörður last night. Avalanche expert Magni Hreinn Jónsson says more precipitation is expected in the region.

Travellers are asked to show caution and monitor road conditions on road.is.