Blue Lagoon to Remain Closed Until November 30

The Blue Lagoon Iceland

The Blue Lagoon, along with its associated facilities, has extended its closure until November 30 due to ongoing geological unrest on the Reykjanes peninsula. Following the detection of sulphur dioxide emissions, an immediate evacuation of Grindavík was ordered earlier today.

Closure extended

Last Thursday, November 9, the Blue Lagoon announced that it would be closing its lagoon, hotels, spa, and restaurants owing to the ongoing geological unrest in the area. The closure was initially slated to last until November 16, at least, with the situation being regularly assessed.

Tonight, given that the geological unrest has continued, the Blue Lagoon announced that it would be extending its closure until November 30. As noted in the announcement, it is currently impossible to determine when or where a volcanic eruption might occur. The Icelandic MET Office, the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, alongside a team of scientists from the University of Iceland are closely monitoring the situation and analysing ongoing developments.

Immediate evacuation ordered

Earlier today, residents of Grindavík were allowed a brief return to the town to collect valuables. Shortly before 3 PM, while around 90 residents were in their homes and businesses, the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, in conjunction with the Suðurnes Police, mandated an immediate evacuation, signalled by town sirens.

The authorities later clarified that the rapid evacuation of Grindavík was prompted by readings from the Icelandic Meteorological Office’s gas metres, which detected sulphur dioxide emissions from the ground near Grindavík. The Suðurnes Police reported that the evacuation was completed in just 95 seconds. Officials express hope that they can allow residents to safely return to Grindavík tomorrow.

Full statement

Below you will find the full statement from the Blue Lagoon:

“The chances of a volcanic eruption on the Reykjanes Peninsula have significantly increased, initiating the precautionary evacuation of the town Grindavík to ensure the safety of residents. The evacuation commenced on the evening of November 10, following a Phase of Emergency declared by the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management.

At this moment it is not possible to determine when or where an eruption might occur. The Icelandic Meteorological Office, Civil Protection, and a team of scientists from the University of Iceland are closely monitoring the situation and analysing the developments.

Iceland is no stranger to volcanic activity, and there have been three eruptions on the Reykjanes Peninsula in the last two years. Icelandic authorities and local communities are well-prepared for such events, and Iceland has one of the world’s most effective volcanic preparedness measures. Iceland’s geoscientists possess vast experience in dealing with volcanic activities.

On November 9, Blue Lagoon made the proactive decision to temporarily close its facilities, affecting operations at Blue Lagoon, Silica Hotel, Retreat Spa, Retreat Hotel, Lava, and Moss Restaurant. Considering disruptions to our guests’ experience and the sustained pressure on our employees, these precautionary measures were taken to ensure the safety and well-being of all. The closure will remain in effect until 7 AM on November 30, at which point the situation will be reassessed.”

Minister’s Temporary Whaling Ban Could Be Extended

Iceland whaling Hvalur hf

Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir’s temporary ban on whaling may be extended, Mbl.is reports. A ministry-organised working group is assessing the compliance of whaling with animal welfare and whaling laws.

Temporary ban announced

On June 20, Svandís Svavarsdóttir, the Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries, announced a temporary halt to the hunting of fin whales until August 31. The decision was prompted by a specialist council’s report revealing non-compliance with the Act on Animal Welfare.

Mbl.is reports a ministry-organised working group will assess the compliance of whaling with animal welfare and whaling laws in the coming weeks: “From the time that regulation no. 642/​2023 was enacted, the ministry has deliberated on refining hunting methods and equipment for large whales to align with Act No. 55/2013 and Act No. 26/1949,” the Ministry’s answer reads.

The working group, following its assessment, is expected to offer alternatives or potential solutions to the ministry, indicating that the “temporary” ban might be extended if the group determines that current whaling practices can’t meet animal welfare laws.

Terror Suspect’s Defence Attorney “Astonished” by “Vague” Charges

Héraðsdómur Reykjavíkur Reykjavík District Court

Earlier today at the District Court of Reykjavík, formal charges were brought against two men suspected of planning a domestic-terror attack. A defence attorney for one of the suspects has told Vísir that he is “astonished” by the charges.

Custody extended by an additional four weeks

As reported earlier today, the District Prosecutor filed a motion for extended custody over two men suspected of planning a domestic terror attack earlier this year. The court approved the motion, and custody was extended for an additional four weeks.

Formal charges were also brought against the two suspects. One of the suspects was charged with an act of attempted terrorism and weapons offences. The other suspected was charged as an accomplice to an act of attempted terrorism, weapons offences, and a minor narcotics violation.

Hairy as a “chimpanzee’s back”

Speaking to Vísir today, Sveinn Andri Sveinsson, defence attorney for one of the suspects, stated that he was “astonished” by the charges: “They’re charged with unspecified offences against an unspecified group of people at an unspecified time between May and September. It’s as hairy as a chimpanzee’s back.”

According to Sveinn Andri, the police authorities had been too extreme in their initial operations. “The only attempted offence, in this case, was an attempt to destroy the lives of two young men,” Sveinn Andri observed.

“The charges are founded on weapons that they had hoarded. My client was not in possession of any weapons. There’s a reference to weapon production. These are probably the first terrorists who hoard weapons but then sell them before committing an act of terrorism, which must constitute a highly questionable for of preparation,” Sveinn Andri remarked.

Sveinn Andri added that he and his client would have to “roll with the punches.” They would begin by examining a motion for dismissal, given the vague nature of the charges.

“It’s complete nonsense. Terrible. You’ve completely upended the lives of these two young men on the basis of ego. The police jumped the gun in the beginning and everything that they’ve done since has been geared toward justifying that initial jump.”

Custody of Domestic Terror Suspects Extended by Two Weeks

Suspect

The two individuals suspected of planning a domestic terror attack will be held in custody for another two weeks, Vísir reports. A defence attorney has called the decision “incomprehensible” in light of a psychiatric assessment that held that the men were neither a danger to themselves nor others.

Psychiatric assessment “not taken into account”

Four Icelandic men were arrested on September 21 suspected of “terrorist plots” against state institutions and civilians. Two of the suspects were immediately released; the other two have remained in custody.

According to the police, the suspects had hoarded numerous weapons – including dozens of semi-automatic guns and 3D-printed components – alongside a considerable amount of ammunition. The men, both of whom are in their twenties, had discussed carrying out attacks against political figures, among them Minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson and Chairman of Efling, Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir.

As noted by Vísir yesterday, the two men were initially placed in custody on the basis of investigative interests, but the current extension, as confirmed by the Reykjavík District Court, was predicated on public interest, with the men believed to be a danger to the public.

In an interview with Vísir yesterday, Sveinn Andri Sveinsson, defence attorney for one of the men, stated that the decision was founded on a threat analysis carried out by the National Police Department. “I’ve criticised the fact that the threat assessment, which actually predated the psychiatric assessment, did not take the psychiatric assessment into account.”

According to Sveinn, the psychiatrist who carried out the assessment at the behest of the police did not believe the men to be a threat to themselves or others. The District Court, however, did not take this assessment into account. Sveinn Andri added that his client would be appealing the District Court’s decision, which was a big disappointment, to the Court of Appeal.

“It’s always disappointing for individuals who are in custody without good reason to have to remain in custody. But we’ll simply have to deal with it and try to have the decision overturned in the Court of Appeals. That would be ideal.”

In late October, Sveinn Andri Sveinsson dismissed private messages between the suspects as a “failed attempt at humour,” adding that he did not believe that either of the men would be charged with planning a terrorist attack.

Judge Grants Extended Custody Over Domestic-Terror Suspects

Terror plot

Yesterday, the Reykjavík District Court granted the district attorney’s request to extend custody over two individuals suspected of planning a domestic-terror attack, both of whom have been kept in isolation since late September, RÚV reports. The suspects’ lawyers have appealed the decision to the National Court.

“The first investigation of its kind”

Four Icelandic men were arrested on September 21 suspected of “terrorist plots” against state institutions and civilians. Two of the suspects were immediately released; the other two have remained in custody.

According to the police, the suspects had hoarded numerous weapons – including dozens of semi-automatic guns and 3D-printed components – alongside a considerable amount of ammunition. The men, all of whom are in their twenties, had reportedly discussed carrying out an attack during the police’s annual celebration (which was held on October 1).

Chief Police Inspector Karl Steinar Valsson told reporters that this was the “first investigation of its kind to be launched in Iceland.”

Custody extended

Yesterday, District Attorney Ólafur Þór Hauksson confirmed to RÚV that the Reykjavík District Court had agreed to extend custody over the two suspects. The court’s rationale was primarily founded on the complicated nature of the investigation.

As previously noted, eight different units are working on the investigation. “We’re investigating the 3D printer, various electronic data, weapons, and tips from the public. We’ve also sent quite a bit of data to police authorities in the Nordic countries and to Europol so that they may assist in our processing of the evidence,” Grímur Grímsson, Chief of the Capital Area Police, told reports on September 29.

According to Ólafur Þór, the police have also yet to formally interrogate the two suspects. As soon as investigative interests no longer apply, however, there would be no need to keep the suspects isolated, Ólafur observed. The suspects’ lawyers have criticised their clients’ prolonged isolation. They appealed the decision to extend custody to the National Court yesterday.

As previously noted in Iceland Review, National Police Commissioner Sigríður Björk Guðjónsdóttir has recused herself from the investigation, as the home of the Police Commissioner’s father, a well-known weapons collector, was searched during the investigation.