Saving Trapped Hikers at Eruption Site “a Near Impossibility”

Almannavarnadeild ríkislögreglustjóra. The eruption on Reykjanes, July 10, 2023

A public relations Officer with the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue has told Mbl.is that rescue workers had to assist several hikers near the eruption site at Litli-Hrútur last night and into the early hours today. Rescuing hikers who become trapped in the lava is “a near impossibility.”

Approximately 3,000 hikers visited eruption site yesterday

In an interview with Mbl.is this morning, Jón Þór Víglundsson, Public Relations Officer with the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue (Landsbjörg), stated that there were seven instances of minor injuries or fatigue at the Litli-Hrútur eruption site late last night and into the early hours today.

An estimated 3,000 hikers, with varying levels of preparedness, trekked to the site during this time. The procession of hikers began to disperse away from the volcanic area and towards the parking lot at around 3 AM.

Nearly impossible to save trapped hikers

According to Jón, rescue teams succeeded in assisting hikers, even those who strayed from the marked trail or failed to reach the viewpoint. “Ascending to the lookout lifts one out of the dense smoke from the wildfires, but hikers are often drawn closer,” he said.

Read More: Favourable weather conditions at eruption site today

Jón warned of the perils of venturing near the lava, explaining that rescue via the same route would be impossible. “The only possible method would be an aerial evacuation, which isn’t always feasible. The chances of rescuing individuals trapped by fresh lava flows are slim, and anyone falling into the lava would, simply put, perish,” he concluded.

Six groups of rescue teams

For the past two nights, six rescue groups have been operating in the area, managing closure points and providing on-site assistance.

Jón also shared an interesting observation from travellers in the area: “Several travellers approached our teams, reporting sensations of a ‘knocking’ from beneath the ground, akin to a heartbeat, according to one of the hikers.” While Jón speculated these could be volcanic tremors, earthquakes, or natural tremors in the area, he believed the source of the knocking to be within the lava fields.