Three Hundred Participate in Disaster Drill at Reykjavík Airport

An extensive disaster drill was held at the Reykjavík International Airport on Saturday, involving police, the fire department, ambulances, search and rescue teams, Red Cross representatives, and 60 people who volunteered to play injured civilians. RÚV reports that three hundred people took part in the exercise. Drills of this magnitude are held at every international airport every four years.

Jónas Sigurbjörnsson (Björgunarsveitin Ársæll)

These drills are extremely important for emergency responders, says Árni Birgisson, coordinator of airports and aviation security for Isavia. “Fortunately, flying is our safest form of travel, so our readiness is very seldom put to the test other than through these exercises.” To ensure that responders are prepared for every eventuality, considerable effort is put into making the drills as realistic as possible.

Jónas Sigurbjörnsson (Björgunarsveitin Ársæll)

The scene on Saturday was a dramatic one, with thick black smoke wafting over the site of the drill. According to the staged scenario, an airplane was supposed to have skidded off the runway during landing and collided with a stationary plane. This crash would have caused one of the planes to burst into flame and resulted in the death or serious injury of dozens of people.

Volunteers playing victims in the drill were, therefore, posed in various states of distress along the runway so that responders would have to act fast and prioritize the injured, even as the plane continued to burn.

Grindavík Residents Prepared for Possible Eruption

Grindavík - Þorbjörn

Authorities continue to monitor signs of a potential eruption near Grindavík, Southwest Iceland. Despite an earthquake of magnitude 3.1 last night, there is no reason to believe an eruption is imminent. Around 1,000 Grindavík residents attended a town hall meeting yesterday afternoon where authorities reviewed safety protocols and evacuation procedures in case one does occur.

Possible magma accumulation

Authorities have declared a state of uncertainty due to possible magma accumulation a few kilometres west of Þorbjörn mountain on the Reykjanes peninsula. According to the Icelandic Met Office, land rise of three centimetres over the past week combined with an ongoing earthquake swarm could be signs that magma is accumulating underground, which could result in an eruption.

“The situation is similar today as it was yesterday, inflation is occurring at the same rate, but there’s nothing new to report. It’s a very steady process,” geophysicist Benedikt Ófeigsson of the Icelandic Met Office told Iceland Review. “The next steps for us are to increase monitoring of the area, which we will do by setting up more seismographs and GPS devices.”

Land rise measurement recently implemented

Though land rise likely indicates magma is accumulating in the area, geologist Þóra Björg Andrésdóttir confirmed that it does not necessarily indicate an imminent eruption. “The last eruption in this area happened around [the year] 1200. It is said that it happens about every 800-1,000 years and we’ve reached the limit. On the other hand, we don’t know whether there have been such major changes in land rise before as this technology is rather new. We haven’t been monitoring it. It could well be that this has happened many times over the last hundred years.”

Residents meet in Grindavík

A town hall meeting was held in Grindavík yesterday to address the situation, and was attended by some 1,000 locals. Authorities went over evacuation procedures in the two-hour meeting, as well as encouraging residents to sit down with their families to make a plan of action in case of an eruption.

Residents’ state of mind at the meeting was quite varied. “I’m not scared at all. It’s a little exciting,” was the response Sigurgeir Sigurgeirsson gave a reporter when asked about the potential eruption. Klara Teitsdóttir said she was only worried about one thing. “I sat beside my mother in law at the meeting when they sent out text messages from [the emergency line] 112. She got hers at two minutes to five and I got mine at nine minutes past five. So there was an 11-minute difference.”

The town’s mayor Fannar Jónasson told RÚV the gathering served its purpose. “The lecturers did very well and residents asked well-thought-out questions. I’ve heard that people were happy with the meeting.”

Eruption not the likeliest development

Geophysicist Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson, who addressed Grindavík residents at the meeting, explained that an eruption is not the likeliest event even if magma is accumulating outside the town. “The reason for this preparedness level is that we can’t take any chances. We have to be ready, we live in Iceland and this is a volcanic country.” He added that if an eruption did occur, it would most likely not be an explosive eruption, rather characterised by slowly flowing lava that would give those in the area enough time to evacuate safely.

Majority of Regional Archives Not Prepared for Disaster

The National Archives of Iceland have been housed at Laugavegur 162 since the 1980s.

Less than a third of Iceland’s regional archives have made copies of important documents, as is dictated by disaster preparedness protocols, RÚV reports. On top of this, about two thirds of the regional archives do not have any emergency plan in place for how to respond to large-scale disasters.

According to Eiríkur G. Guðmundsson, Director General of the National Archives, the biggest reason for this oversight is that the regional archives simply do not have the resources, either in terms of staffing or funding. Eiríkur said that these archives must be prioritised if the situation is to be remedied.

Iceland has 20 regional archives, all of which are under the oversight of the country’s national archives. These archives are the repositories for institutional and governmental documents for local districts around the country.

Per Icelandic public archival laws, last amended in 2014, the country’s most important documents must be preserved on film, in electronic copy, or by means of other electronic storage method. These copies are then stored in a separate location away from the main archives. Thus far, however, only three of the 20 regional archives have assessed what documents would need to be transferred in the event of a disaster, and where.