Landslide Disrupts Traffic in North East

landslide iceland

A landslide forced the closure of a road last night, November 16, in Northeast Iceland by the town of Grenivík. Route 83 going north from Akureyri is currently closed from the junction with Víkurskarðsvegur.

Authorities advise residents to take a detour through Dalsmynni.

The announcement from North East Iceland police can be seen below.

Authorities state that although landslides are not common in this area, avalanches are. 

An approximately 50 to 70m stretch of road is affected, covered in about one metre of mud and debris.

Gísli Gunnar Oddgeirsson, municipal council director of Grýtubakkahreppur, stated to RÚV: “It’s not usual for there to be landslides there, and considering that there’s been no rain, it’s a bit surprising.”

No one was harmed during the landslide, but one car is stated to have driven into the mire.

 

Heavy Rains and Risk of Flooding in North Iceland Today

weather warning north iceland

Considerable rainfall is forecasted for North Iceland today, particularly in the eastern part of the region and on the Tröllaskagi peninsula. Elevated water levels are expected in rivers, and localised flooding may occur. There is also increased risk of rock falls and landslides in the area due to the wet and windy weather. A yellow weather alert has been issued for the region.

Outdoor activities such as hiking are not advised in North Iceland today due to the combination of wet weather, strong wind, and low temperatures. Travellers in the area can monitor weather conditions on the Icelandic Met Office website and road conditions at road.is.

Conditions are expected to improve by 6:00 PM in Northwest Iceland and by 9:00 PM in the northeast region. Mild weather is in the forecast for other regions of the country today.

In Due Force

Seyðisfjörður

Autumn’s gauze curtain On Sunday, October 3, Hlöðver Hlöðversson stared into a camera in Northeast Iceland. He wore a cream-coloured cap, a grey jacket, and a stern expression. Behind him, there was mist and marshland – only that marshland would not have been an accurate description of the landscape a few days previous. “Is this […]

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Over 20 Landslides in North Iceland Last Weekend

landslides suður þingeyjarsýsla

Over 20 landslides fell in North Iceland last weekend, in the Suður-Þingeyjarsýsla district, RÚV reports. Two of them occurred just last night and while the mountains remain saturated with water, others may yet follow. An uncertainty phase remains in effect in the Tröllaskagi region in North Iceland due to continued rainfall.

Around 30 people have been evacuated from their homes in the region due to the landslide risk. The residents of the farmstead Björg were evacuated by helicopter after landslides cut off the roads. The heavy rain also flooded some 18 houses in Ólafsfjörður, where Search and Rescue crews were at work throughout the weekend pumping water out of basements. The water formed a large lagoon in the town which crews were working to empty yesterday.

Landslide Damages Two Houses in North Iceland

landslide Varmahlíð aurskriða

No one was injured in a landslide that occurred yesterday in Varmahlíð, North Iceland, though two houses sustained significant damage. Nine homes on four different streets in the town have been evacuated. The evacuation will remain in force until after the region’s local Civil Protection and Emergency Management Committee meets this morning to assess the situation. An announcement is expected by noon on whether residents can return to their homes.

According to Sigfús Ingi Sigfússon, head of the local council, authorities had noticed the land sagging on the town’s Norðurbrún street towards the end of the winter. Repairs on the street were scheduled to begin today and equipment had been ready at the location when the landslide occurred. Luckily, no one was home in the two houses affected when the landslide fell.

Seyiðsfjörður Mudslides: Evacuation Lifted, Alert Level Lowered

Several residents of Seyðisfjörður, East Iceland, can return to their homes now that the evacuation order on Hafnargata street has been lifted. The order applies to the houses standing under Múlinn: numbers 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16b, and 18c on Hafnargata street. Further risk of mudslides is no longer considered imminent and the National Police Commissioner and the Police Commissioner in East Iceland have decided to lower the civil protection phase in the town from danger alert to uncertainty phase. Danger alert has been in effect from December 20, when it was reduced from crisis phase, due to a large mudslide which fell last December 18.

Cleaning has been ongoing in the East Iceland town since several mudslides destroyed over a dozen buildings in the town, both residential and industrial, many of them historic. The houses under Múlinn have all been evacuated since December 18, when the largest of several mudslides fell on the town.

A notice from the Civil Protection and Emergency Management Department says cleaning efforts have been successful in recent weeks, and emergency levees to protect from further landslides have been completed in some areas. Further risk of mudslides is being closely monitored and “is not considered imminent in the coming days.” The levees are considered an interim solution while more permanent mudslide protection is being considered.

Read More: Seyðisfjörður Mudslides Destroy 14 Houses

Four residential buildings in the town, located by Stöðvarlækur creek, still remain evacuated. A specific risk assessment is being conducted for that area and results are expected in the next few days. Residents of the town have been warned to expect further evacuations in the coming months “if weather conditions become unfavourable or the weather forecast is for heavy rain.”

Ministers Travel to Seyðisfjörður Following Mudslides

Four government ministers are on their way to Seyðisfjörður following devastating mudslides that destroyed at least 10 buildings in the city centre, many historic. Although they have not resulted in injuries, the mudslides led to the town’s evacuation and some residents have not yet been permitted to return home. An “alert phase” remains in effect in Seyðisfjörður due to continued danger of mudslides and an “uncertainty phase” remains in effect for East Iceland due to landslide risk. Extreme rainfall is behind the occurrences.

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Minister of Transport and Local Government Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson, and Justice Minister Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir flew east this morning to survey the damage caused by the mudslides and speak to locals, RÚV reports. Director of the Civil Protection Department Víðir Reynisson, National Police Commissioner Sigríður Björk Guðjónsdóttir, and CEO of ICE-SAR Jón Svanberg Hjartason accompany the ministers on their trip. The group will tour the affected area as well as speak to local officials and residents, who have been heavily impacted by the events. All were tested for COVID-19 prior to the trip.

Read More: Government Assesses Damage and Promises Assistance

While many of the town’s 690 residents have been permitted to return home, nearly 300 have not yet been permitted to do so. Some residents of houses affected by the landslides were, however, permitted to enter their homes yesterday alongside rescue crews to collect belongings. Civil Protection has set up an emergency response centre in the town at Herðubreið Community and Culture House.

Residents Suggest Government Neglect

Seyðisfjörður resident Jonathan Moto Bisagni stated it was a miracle no one was hurt in the mudslides but says more could have been done by the state government to minimise the effects of such a disaster. “I’m not saying that this disaster was avoidable but there could have been better safety protocols to have us evacuated before the mountains fell on us. They could have constructed defenses. It is hard for me to believe that there was even an evacuation plan in place,” Jonathan wrote in a Facebook post. “Speaking with the mayor of our municipality yesterday, he agreed that something should have been done to prevent this but that the funding simply was not there. This impending disaster was identified as a risk 2 years ago. The risk of avalanche took first priority and this landslide risk was put on the back burner.”

Read More: Avalanche Barriers in Iceland

Those who would like to support the residents of Seyðisfjörður have been encouraged to donate to the local Search and Rescue organisation and the Red Cross of Seyðisfjörður, which have been helping in response efforts. Donation information can be found here.

120 Evacuated Following Mudslides in Seyðisfjörður

Mudslide in Seyðisfjörður

No one was hurt when mudslides fell on residential buildings in Seyðisfjörður yesterday afternoon. Iceland’s National Police Commissioner raised the civil protection emergency level of Seyðisfjörður to alert and 120 people evacuated their homes. All of East Iceland is at an emergency level of uncertainty due to danger of landslides following heavy rain in the region.

Last week, East and Southeast Iceland saw heavy rains. The rain let up over the weekend but started again yesterday, with rain in the forecast until the weekend. Several mudslides fell into the town of Seyðisfjörður, reaching at least two houses and flooding several others. No one was hurt and the damage to property was minor but around 120 people left their homes when 50 industrial and residential buildings in four streets  were evacuated to reduce the risk of people getting hurt. The Red Cross opened up an emergency response centre where the people could receive care. The residents received dinner in the response centre but no one had to spend the night there as everyone found shelter with friends and neighbours. It should be noted that there are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in all of East Iceland and no one has been in quarantine since December 1.

The last landslide fell yesterday around 10 pm. There was less rain during the night and no landslides have fallen in Seyðisfjörður this morning to the best of the police’s knowledge. They’re waiting for first light to examine the situation and assess the damage. Residents who’ve vacated their houses and are in need of necessities from their homes are advised to go to Sæból, the Search-and-rescue team building where they will receive escort to the danger zone to retrieve their belongings.

Austurland Food Coop is a produce import company based in Seyðisfjörður, reporting delays on deliveries due to the mudslides. Its CEO Jonathan Moto Bisagni told Austurfrétt regional media that his family was among those who had to evacuate their home. They found a place to stay for the night and reported that the communal spirit was alive and well in Seyðisfjörður. “Eveyrone in town was ready to help out and a few people reached out to us to make sure we had somewhere to stay.”

All of East Iceland is at a level of uncertainty due to the danger of landslides. Soil in the lower part of mountainsides in the region is saturated with water and landslides have fallen in Eskifjörður, Seyðisfjörður and Fáskrúðsfjörður.

Ring Road Closed in Southeast Iceland Due to Mudslide

The Ring Road (Route 1) is closed in Southeast Iceland due to a mudslide. The closure is between Höfn and Djúpivogur. There is a yellow weather alert in the area.

Wet weather in Southeast Iceland is likely the cause of a mudslide that has closed the Ring Road. Thankfully, conditions are expected to improve this afternoon. Until then, heavy rain and low visibility are expected in the area.

More information on when the road will reopen will be available around 4.00pm today.

Travellers in the region should be aware of the increased risk of landslides due to wet conditions and are encouraged to monitor road conditions online or by calling 1777 (+354 522 1100 from non-local phones).

Dig Through Landslide to Redirect Salmon River

A fishing association will dig up 350,000 square metres (3.8 million sq ft) of soil in order to redirect Hítará river, which was diverted by a landslide two years ago. RÚV reports the project will likely cost more than ISK 100 million ($730,000/€660,000), but the Hítará Fishing Association says the investment is worth it, as the river is one of the most lucrative salmon fishing rivers in the country.

In the summer of 2018, unusually wet weather caused an enormous landslide on Fagraskógarfjall mountain that completely blocked Hítará river. Roughly one kilometre (0.6mi) wide and 1.5km (0.9mi) long, the landslide is thought to be the largest that has ever occurred in Iceland. Hítará eventually carved a new trajectory, but an important former salmon spawning area in its old path is now either dry or underneath the landslide.

Ólafur Sigvaldsson, chairman of Hítará Fishing Association, says the now-dry area represents about 20% of the former Hítará. By digging a ditch through the landslide six metres deep and 18 metres wide (20ft x 60ft), the group aims to return the river to its old path. The association has applied for ISK 60 million ($440,000/€400,000) for the project from the Fish Farming Fund (Fiskræktarsjóður) but expects to pay the rest of the cost itself. Ólafur says compared to the financial loss to the association that the decline in salmon represents, the investment is worth it.