Thousands of Cigarette Stubs Wash Up on East Iceland Beach

Svanbjörg Pálsdóttir. Cigarette stubs washed up on the beach in Eskifjörður, East Iceland, August 16, 2023

A resident of Eskifjörður, East Iceland was shocked to see thousands of cigarette stubs washed up on the shore of the fjord yesterday. It is unclear where the cigarette stubs came from but many residents speculate they were dumped by a passing ship. The stubs have since been cleaned by the municipality of Fjarðabyggð. RÚV reported first.

Svanbjörg Pálsdóttir went for a walk on the beach in Eskifjörður yesterday. At first she thought the yellow material dotting the rocks was seaweed but then realised it was thousands of cigarette butts. “Which ships are dumping this into the sea,” she asked in a Facebook post for residents of Eskifjörður, calling on authorities to look into the pollution and stop it from happening again.

Svanbjörg wrote to the municipality of Fjarðabyggð to alert them to the issue. The municipality reacted immediately and had the beach cleaned the same day. It is not clear whether authorities will investigate the source of the pollution at this stage.

Partial Easing of Evacuation Orders in East Fjords Announced

East Iceland March 2023

About 800 people have had to leave their homes due to the risk of avalanches in East Iceland. After reevaluating conditions this morning, the local authorities have announced a partial easing of evacuation orders, Vísir reports.

800 people forced to evacuate their homes

As noted yesterday, the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management issued evacuation orders for parts of Eskifjörður, Stöðvarfjörður, and Fáskrúðsfjörður, three towns in the East Fjords region, due to the risk of slush floods. Evacuation orders were also in effect for nearby Neskaupstaður and Seyðisfjörður.

Local authorities have now decided to ease some of the evacuation orders, given that the greatest risk of avalanches has passed – although there remains a risk of slush floods. Avalanche experts have been assessing the conditions this morning and will continue to monitor the situation today, according to Víðis Reynisson, a senior police officer with the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management.

“The night was pretty uneventful. We received information about two slush floods spilling over roads but nothing serious. Nonetheless, the situation is such that there are about 800 people who have had to leave their homes these days and are still away from home. The situation is being fully assessed at the moment,” Víðir told RÚV this morning.

Very few forced to seek refuge at public shelters

Although partial evacuation orders have been lifted, it is clear that not everyone will be allowed to return to their homes today. Víðir told RÚV that the vast majority of the 800 people who had been made to leave their homes had been taken in by friends and family and that, in some places, public shelters had been closed last night as no one had sought refuge. The shelters have, however, been reopened this morning.

As noted by RÚV, the roads in and out of the east fjords remain closed: Fjarðarheiði, Fagridalur, the road from the tunnels to Neskaupstaður, and east Vatnsskarð. Víðir stated that work was being done to open the main roads.

Update: The Icelandic MET Office has decided to lift the evacuation orders for several areas in Seyðisfjörður, Eskifjörður, and Neskaupstaður.

This article was updated at 09.59 AM.

Evacuations in Three Additional East Fjords Towns

East Iceland March 2023

The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management has issued evacuation orders for parts of Eskifjörður, Stöðvarfjörður, and Fáskrúðsfjörður, three towns in the East Fjords region, due to the risk of slush floods. Evacuation orders remain in effect for nearby Neskaupstaður and Seyðisfjörður. Several avalanches have fallen in Neskaupstaður this week, and heavy precipitation is falling in the region today, increasing the risk of extreme thawing and heavy runoff.

Most roads in the East Fjords region are closed due to avalanche risk and weather conditions. RÚV reports that water is flooding over the road through Berufjörður fjord, in the southern part of East Iceland. Roads in the region are expected to remain closed for the time being.

The Civil Protection Department met at 11:00 AM this morning when it decided to issue the additional evacuation orders. Chief Superintendent Víðir Reynisson stated that the evacuations were precautionary and “not extensive.” They were issued based on known waterways that could swell suddenly due to extreme thaw and runoff as is expected tonight.

Residents of East Iceland are asked to monitor notifications from the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management as well as East Iceland Police, the Icelandic Met Office, and road.is.

Small Avalanche Falls in Neskaupstaður

ICE-SAR

Another avalanche fell above the town of Neskaupstaður in East Iceland shortly after noon today, Mbl.is reports. The avalanche, which was relatively small, did not reach the town’s protective barriers. In an announcement published today, the East Iceland Police stated that evacuation orders would remain in effect.

Three avalanches, evacuation orders come into effect

After three avalanches struck Neskaupstaður on the night of March 26, and the early morning of March 27, evacuation orders for Neskaupstaður, Seyðisfjörður, and Eskiförður – all located in Iceland’s East Fjords – came into effect. No serious injuries were sustained.

Evacuation orders were lifted for some of the houses in the area yesterday.

As reported by Mbl.is, however, another small avalanche fell above Neskaupstaður shortly after noon today. Rescue workers and reporters were inside the evacuated area and witnessed the avalanche falling firsthand.

Following a meeting of operations control in East Iceland with representatives of the Icelandic MET Office this morning, the East Iceland Police announced that evacuation orders would remain in effect. The authorities are also considering whether to reinstate evacuation orders previously lifted for select areas.

As noted in the announcement, the weather forecast predicts that snowfall will be followed by rain, which may be followed by sleet and possible slush floods. Given the possibility of slush floods, among other things, the police, in collaboration with local authorities, are drawing up plans.

For further information, residents are encouraged to exercise caution and to view evacuation charts on the website of the MET Office: Eskifjörður, Neskaupstaður, Seyðisfjörður.

Risk of Further Avalanches in East Fjords

avalanche neskaupstaður

Evacuation orders for areas of Neskaupstaður, Seyðisfjörður, and Eskiförður, all located in Iceland’s East Fjords, will remain in effect until tomorrow due to the ongoing risk of avalanches. Three avalanches fell in Neskaupstaður during the night and early morning of March 26-27. No serious injuries have been sustained.

Some 500 residents of the three towns have been evacuated from their homes due to the ongoing risk, although the Civil Protection and Emergency Management Department announced this morning that some Neskaupstaður residents could return home today. The emergency phase declared by the Civil Protection Department yesterday has been lowered to an alert phase.

Stormy weather may impact the lifting of evacuation orders. A yellow weather warning has been issued for Southeast Iceland on Wednesday morning that may increase the risk of avalanche in the East Fjords.

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir told RÚV she planned to visit the affected area at the first opportunity. Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson and Minister of Infrastructure Sigurður Ingi Jóhannesson both stated the avalanches in Neskaupstaður gave reason to review avalanche barrier infrastructure in the East Fjords.

Read more about avalanche barriers in Iceland.

Parts of Eskifjörður Also To Be Evacuated Due To Risk of Mudslides

map of Eskifjörður evacuation zone

Due to fissures in the mountainsides above Eskifjörður growing wider, some areas in town will be evacuated due to the risk of landslides. The National Police Commissioner has raised the level of alert for the town.

After a week of extreme rainfall, devastating landslides have hit the town of Seyðisfjörður in east Iceland. Eskifjörður is further south and has had less, but still a significant amount of rainfall. Mountainsides are saturated with water and today, fissures in an old road above the town have grown wider. Landslides have fallen in the vicinity of the town but not on any residential areas, so far. In light of the situation, the Iceland Meteorological Office has requested that areas of Eskifjörður directly underneath the widening fissures be evacuated. Residents in the evacuation zone are asked to register at the Red Cross Emergency Response Centre at 2, Dalbraut, or call 1717.

Evacuation in Seyðisfjörður is ongoing and residents will be taken by bus to nearby Egilsstaðir. Most people in town have already left and emergency responders are working on finding them a place to stay for the night, RÚV reports.

Announcement from the office of the National Commissioner of Police and the Chief of Police in East Iceland.

Alert level raised to Danger in response to the threat of landslides in Eskifjörður, East Iceland.

The National Commissioner of Police, in consultation with the Commissioner of Police in East Iceland and the Icelandic Meteorological Office, has raised the alert level in Eskifjörður in response to the risk of landslides.

Fissures in the mountains around Oddskarðsvegur, above Eskifjörður, have enlarged over the course of the day due to significant rainfall. The Meteorological Office recommends that Botnabraut, Hátún, Helgafell, Lambeyrarbraut, Hólsvegur and Strandgata be evacuated. Residents of those streets are asked to register at the Icelandic Red Cross emergency shelter in the church at Dalbraut 2 or call directly the Red Cross Helpline 1717.

Free Hot Meals for Schoolchildren an “Equality Issue”

The elementary school in the East Iceland village of Eskifjörður is working to reduce the cost of school lunches for its students and hopes to soon make all hot meals free, RÚV reports. The principal considers free hot lunches a “very important equality issue” facing the Fjarðarbyggð municipality as a whole.

Currently, students in the Fjarðarbyggð municipality pay ISK 450 [$4.06; €3.49] a day for lunches, which in Eskifjörður, generally include fish. This comes out to roughly ISK 9,000 [$81.23; €69.91] a month per student. Principal Birgir Jónsson says that it’s come to the school’s attention, however, that not all families can afford the monthly cost of school lunches and so choose to send their children with bag lunches instead. Some parents may have other reasons for sending their kids to school with bag lunches, he acknowledges, but there are special occasions where eating a hot meal together is more of a social event, and all students should be able to take part then. “We’ve noticed that especially when there’s something like pizza or things like that, then, of course, everyone wants to [have the hot lunch].”

As a first step to addressing the problem, therefore, the school will be reducing the cost of school lunches to ISK 300 [$2.70; €2.33] starting on October 1, 2018. The intention, says Fjarðarbyggð town council foreman Eydís Ásbjörnsdóttir, is to ensure that “…all kids are sitting at the same table and have the chance to get a hot and nutritious meal.”

The municipality is taking steps to make school lunches completely free within the current election cycle.