Too Soon to Discuss Protective Barriers for Hafnarfjörður

Protective barrriers in Reykjanes

An earthquake near Trölladyngja has led to a discussion of the possibility of erecting protective barriers in Hafnarfjörður. The director of the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management has stated that such discussions are premature.

No observable change in Svartsengi

On Wednesday, a large earthquake occurred near Mt. Trölladyngja, a volcano located on the Reykjanes peninsula, between Grindavík and the capital area. Speaking to Vísir yesterday, a geologist on duty at the Icelandic Meteorological Office stated that there had been about 640 tremors since the earthquake. Their frequency had rapidly decreased, however. The geologist also stated that there had beeen no signs of geological unrest in Svartsengi, where a volcanic eruption occurred in December, after the earthquake.

Speaking to Stöð 2’s evening news on Wednesday, volcanologist Ármann Höskuldsson discussed the earthquake and its potential implications. He expressed interest in exploring the construction of protective barriers in the westernmost part of Hafnarfjörður given that the tremor might indicate possible eruptions near the town in the coming years.

Discussion of protective barriers premature

Víðir Reynisson, Director of the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, told Vísir yesterday that any discussion of protective barriers for the capital area was premature while a comprehensive hazard assessment for volcanic activity in the area was still underway.

“This work on hazard assessment for Iceland’s volcanoes started in 2012 and has been ongoing since. Some locations have been addressed, and the assessment for the capital area began over a year ago. We are working as quickly as possible. Many scientists are involved,” Víðir stated.

Several volcanologists have called for such a risk assessment, and Víðir was surprised that they were not aware that this work had long been in progress: “We know to some extent where eruptions can occur and are familiar with these areas. It’s possible to simulate lava flows from these locations, but the hazard assessment is the foundation of everything we do. It’s being actively worked on,” Víðir noted.

As noted by Vísir, land uplift near the Svartsengi Power Station has continued, although the rate has significantly slowed in recent days. A similar pattern occurred before the eruption in Sundhnúkagígar in mid-December.

Custody Over Suspects in Hafnarfjörður Shooting Extended

police station reykjavík

The Metropolitan Police has extended the custody of two men involved in a December shooting in Hafnarfjörður by one week. An investigation into the incident is ongoing, Vísir reports.

Custody set to expire on January 11

As noted in an announcement by the Metropolitan Police, the custody of two men who fired shots in Hafnarfjörður in December has been extended by one week.

The incident occurred inside an apartment in Hafnarfjörður on Christmas Eve, where residents were present but unharmed. Initially, three individuals were arrested, although one was released on December 27. There was a significant police presence at the scene. 

The investigation of the case is ongoing, and the custody of the two men is set to expire on January 11, unless further extended.

District Prosecutor Appeals Verdict in Hafnarfjörður Stabbing Case

Judge's gavel

The District Prosecutor is appealing the sentences of three young men involved in a fatal stabbing in Hafnarfjörður; a fourth individual, who recorded the incident, will not face an appeal on her suspended sentence, RÚV reports.

Fatal stabbing in front of Fjarðarkaup

In April of this year, four individuals, three of them under 18, were detained by the Capital Area Police following the death of a 27-year-old man in front of the Fjarðarkaup grocery store in Hafnarfjörður. The man had been stabbed multiple times.

All of the individuals were later sentenced to prison. The eldest of the four, a 19-year-old, was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The District Court ruled that he had not shown a deliberate intention to kill the victim. The other two boys, both under the age of 18, received two-year sentences. The fourth individual, a girl who recorded the attack on video, received a twelve-month suspended sentence.

As reported by RÚV, the District Prosecutor has decided to appeal to Landsréttur (i.e. the Court of Appeals) the verdict of the Reykjanes District Court against three young men. This was confirmed by Þorgils Þorgilsson, the defence attorney for one of them. According to RÚV, the verdict for the young woman who recorded the attack on video will not be appealed.

Costco Fined ISK 20 Million for Gross Negligence Over Oil Spill

Costco

Costco has been fined ISK 20 million ($152,000 / €141,000) after 111,000 litres of diesel leaked into Hafnarfjörður’s sewage system. The Environment Agency of Iceland stated that it was fortunate that the consequences were not more severe, RÚV reports.

A threat to environmental and public health

The Environment Agency of Iceland has imposed a hefty fine of ISK 20 million ($152,000 / €141,000) on Costco for a diesel spill originating from the retail giant’s gas station in Garðabær. The spill saw 111,000 litres of diesel contaminating Hafnarfjörður’s wastewater system and eventually making its way into the ocean last December, RÚV reports.

Residents in the western region of Hafnarfjörður raised complaints about a pervasive smell resembling oil or tar cleaner. After an exhaustive investigation, evidence began to converge on the Costco gas station as the source of the leak.

In a public statement, the Environment Agency expressed its concern over Costco’s apparent lack of proactivity, oversight, and timely response to the incident. The agency further accused the company of “gross negligence,” marked by a notable level of indifference toward the spill, which led to a substantial volume of diesel leaking into the natural environment, much of which is irrecoverable.

Costco’s response and ongoing scrutiny

In response, Costco emphasised its full compliance during the investigative process. The company also challenged the notion that it was merely fortuitous that the spill did not result in more severe environmental degradation.

The Environment Agency countered by reiterating that the spill constituted a significant threat to both environmental integrity and public health, citing a lack of proper organisational protocols and attentiveness on the part of Costco.

While the Environment Agency acknowledged Costco’s subsequent cooperative stance, it pointed to past interactions as indicative of a less-than-transparent relationship. Reports from the health inspectorate suggest that in earlier stages of the investigation, the company was slow to respond and failed to provide necessary information in a timely manner.

Kitten Found Safe Amid Fire Ruins in Hafnarfjörður

Slökkvilið höfuðborgarsvæðisins bs / Facebook. Fire in Hafnarfjörður, August 20, 2023

A young kitten named Koddi was discovered on Wednesday atop the fire-damaged industrial building in Hafnarfjörður where a blaze erupted on Sunday, RÚV reports. The kitten was among four pets reported missing in the wake of the fire.

Building Lacked Adequate Fire Safety Measures

Questions have been raised about the building’s fire safety, as the industrial structure was inadequately equipped to protect its occupants. Authorities are still determining the number of people who may have been living in the facility, which was not zoned for residential use. The building is now considered a total loss.

Quick Response from Local Witnesses

As noted by RÚV, Guðrún Gerður Guðbjörnsdóttir, a local resident who witnessed the blaze, immediately contacted emergency services. Upon realising her daughter lived in the affected building, Gerður rushed into the building to awaken her daughter and her partner. The young couple shared their home with one dog and three cats.

Ongoing Search Efforts Yield Results

Rescue teams successfully located and rescued the couple’s dog and one of the cats soon after the fire was extinguished. Efforts continued to find the remaining missing pets, which led to the discovery of Koddi.

Sandra Ósk Jóhannsdóttir, a volunteer with animal welfare organisation Dýrfinna, stated in an interview with RÚV: “We saw the reflection of Koddi’s eyes from the road above the fire site. Despite responding to calls and treats, the young kitten refused to budge from the rooftop.”

Koddi’s owner was eventually brought to the scene. “Koddi became noticeably more vocal upon hearing a familiar voice; it was so relieved” Sandra observed. Evidently comforted, the kitten made his way down and jumped into its owner’s arms.

Aftermath and Ongoing Search for Missing Pets

While Koddi was discovered near his former home, the apartment is among the structure’s total losses. Sandra observed that it had been heart-rending, watching Koddi alone among the ruins. She added that Koddi had been visibly relieved, frequently purring and napping since being reunited with his owner.

Public Alert for Three More Missing Cats

The animal welfare organisation Dýrfinna continues to search for three additional cats believed to have survived the fire. The organisation is urging the public to report any sightings of the missing pets (see below FB post).

Fire in Hafnarfjörður Industrial Building Used for Housing

Slökkvilið höfuðborgarsvæðisins bs / Facebook. Fire in Hafnarfjörður, August 20, 2023

Seventeen people were registered as residents of an industrial building in Hafnarfjörður in the Reykjavík capital area that was heavily damaged when a fire broke out yesterday. The building was not approved for housing. A couple and a family of four were sleeping inside the building when the fire broke out but were woken up by good samaritans who saw the rising smoke and ran over to help. No injuries or fatalities have been reported.

The fire broke out at Hvaleyrarbraut 22 around noon yesterday, and firefighters did not manage to quell the flames entirely until around 4:00 AM this morning. Duty Officer Þorsteinn Gunnarsson of the Greater Reykjavík Fire and Rescue Service said the building was heavily damaged and a part of it had been torn down in order to put out the fire.

Saved a family of four from the flames

Guðrún Gerður Guðbjörnsdóttir called emergency number 112 immediately when she spotted the fire. When she realised it was in the building where her daughter lived, she made her way in. “I ran up the stairs, jumped onto the roof and ran to the window where my daughter lives,” Guðrún told RÚV reporters. She managed to open the window and wake up her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend. There was already a lot of smoke in the apartment when she reached them.

Another civilian working near the building told reporters that he had run over when the fire broke out and woken up a family of four that was fast asleep inside the building. The family managed to escape to safety. The building was also used as storage and firefighters did their best to save valuables that were stored on the lower floor of the building, though accessing the storage rooms proved difficult.

Likely more than 17 living in the building

Birgir Finsson, Acting Fire Chief of Greater Reykjavík, says 17 people were registered as living in the building, which was not approved as residential housing. He stated that it was likely, however, that even more had been living there. “Residing in commercial [or industrial] buildings is still not permitted, though there is a lot of it in the capital area,” Birgir stated.

Following a fatal house fire in June 2020, Icelandic authorities launched an investigation into housing conditions in Iceland that found that between 5,000 and 7,000 people were living in properties classified as commercial or industrial buildings in Iceland in 2021. The Minister of Infrastructure drafted an amendment to fire safety regulations last month in efforts to ensure more people have their actual residence registered correctly and make it easier for authorities to enter housing where fire prevention measures may be inadequate.

No Hot Water in Hafnarfjörður, Parts of Garðabær, Monday to Wednesday

Due to the connection of new heating mains, there will be no hot water in all of Hafnarfjörður and parts of Garðabær between Monday night and Wednesday morning next week. The new mains are expected to ensure Hafnarfjörður’s hot water supply over the coming decades.

Integration of new heating mains

Veitur (Iceland’s public utility company) announced yesterday that Hafnarfjörður and select parts of Garðabær would be without hot water from 10 PM on Monday, August 21, to 10 AM on Wednesday, August 23. This interruption owes to the integration of new heating mains.

As noted in the announcement, the new mains will bolster transport capacity, addressing the growth in residential demand in Hafnarfjörður, stemming from town expansion; the aim is to ensure Hafnarfjörður’s hot water supply over the coming decades.

Laying new main pipes in established neighbourhoods is rare, and the process is extensive. However, Veitur commits to swift, safe completion. Updates will be available on Veitur’s website.

The following streets in Garðabær will be affected by the closure: Boðahlein, Naustahlein, Hraunholt, Hraungarðar, Hraunhóll, Hraunhamrar, Hrauntunga, Hraunkot, Hraunborg, Gimli, Björk, Brandstaðir, Garðahraun, Miðhraun, Norðurhraun, Suðurhraun, and Vesturhraun.

Co-Tenant Arrested in Hafnarfjörður Murder Case

The man found dead in an industrial area in Hafnarfjörður on Saturday morning is believed to have died from stab wounds, RÚV reports. The police have arrested the man’s co-tenant on suspicion of murder.

Exact circumstances remain unclear

A man discovered unconscious in an industrial area in Hafnarfjörður on Saturday morning is believed to have died from stab wounds, according to authorities. The man’s co-tenant has been taken into police custody on suspicion of murder. This incident marks the third homicide in Iceland in two months.

“We are investigating a suspected homicide,” Grímur Grímsson, Chief Superintendent of the Icelandic Police’s central investigative department, told RÚV yesterday. While he declined to disclose specific details, he clarified the ongoing nature of the case.

“At this point, I’m not prepared to go into too much detail in this investigation,” Grímur told RÚV. “Given the recent occurrence, it is not feasible to delve deeper into it.” RÚV sources indicate that the attack occurred inside the victim’s bedroom early on Saturday morning, following which he managed to exit the residence before succumbing to his injuries.

“While the exact circumstances remain uncertain, the deceased exhibited injuries consistent with stab wounds, leading us to work on the assumption that he died as a result of such an injury,” Grímur stated when addressing concerns about alternative causes of death.

An autopsy is expected to determine the definitive cause of the man’s death.

A third party called the police

The deceased was in his forties and the suspect about forty years old, according to the police. Both hail from Poland. The men knew each other and shared a residence. According to sources, the suspect reportedly confided in a third party about the attack, leading to a subsequent call to the police. As a result, two individuals were apprehended. “We detained two men, one at the scene and the other a short distance away,” Grímur remarked to RÚV.

The latter individual was released on Saturday after it became evident that he had no involvement in the case, despite being present at the scene. The suspect, however, has been remanded in custody for five days.

This incident marks the third homicide of the year and the third within the past two months.

When asked about the significance of these occurrences, the police downplayed any interpretation, stating: “Currently, there is no specific implication. Historically, Iceland has experienced an average of 1.7 to 1.8 homicide cases per year. Sometimes these incidents cluster together, followed by periods of relative calm. Hence, we do not attribute any particular meaning to this pattern at present.”

Walrus Follows Man to Work in Iceland

Jón Sólmundsson rostungur

An employee of Iceland’s Marine and Freshwater Research Institute had an unusual commute to work this morning. Jón Sólmundsson was biking to his office in the town of Hafnarfjörður when he spotted a walrus in the harbour. The walrus then accompanied Jón on his journey for a few blocks before swimming away from the coast. It has since come ashore on the coast of Álftanes in the Reykjavík capital area, Vísir reports.

Jón Sólmundsson.

“I was biking and he followed me from Herjólfsgata street to Fjörukráin restaurant by Strandgata street,” Jón told reporters. “There he turned around and swam out into the fjord.” Walruses are not native to Iceland but have been spotted on its coast from time to time in recent years. A walrus dubbed Þór (Thor) delighted locals in Iceland earlier this year, stopping by Þórshöfn and Breiðdalsvík in East Iceland after being spotted in England. There are no indications that the one currently in the capital area is the same animal.

 

 

“He was also curious, there were some people that stopped to watch him and he seemed to be considering them too,” Jón added. While Jón works at the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute, he told reporters his area of specialty is fish, not walruses.

jón sólmundsson walrus rostungur

A live feed of the walrus is available on visir.is.

Hafnarfjörður Fire: Police Still Searching for Four Youths

The police in Hafnarfjörður are still looking for four youths in connection with the fire in Hafnarfjörður on Monday, RÚV reports. Results of the investigation into the origins of the fire are expected this afternoon.

A warehouse fire in Hafnarfjörður

On Monday evening, police received reports of a warehouse fire in Drafnarslippur, Hafnarfjörður. All available firefighters were subsequently dispatched to the scene. The fire spread from the warehouse building, which was empty, to an attached storage unit and burned its contents, which included tyres.

As previously noted, a few gas cylinders caused minor explosions inside the burning building, although a favourable wind direction blew the smoke out to sea, which limited the spread of the fire and smoke to nearby areas.

Following the event, the police announced that they were looking for four youths who were reportedly seen around the area at approximately 5 PM on the day of the fire. According to the announcement, one of the youths is believed to have long, red hair and another was riding a bicycle.

No tips as of yet

In an interview with Vísir, assistant superintendent Skúli Jónsson stated that the four individuals in question had not come forward and no tips had been received; the police had made no headway in their attempt to reach the young people. When asked if the young people were suspected of having something to do with the origin of the fire, Skúli stated that it was “impossible to say.”

“They were there around 5 PM, and the fire was noticed three and a half hours later. We’d simply like to talk to them,” Skúli told Vísir. He concluded by saying that the technical department of the police, which had been investigating the fire, had yet to reach a conclusion, although a clearer picture of events should emerge later today.