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.

Seyðisfjörður Mudslides: Artists Raise Funds Through Online Art Festival

Saman fyrir Seyðisfjörð

Ásgeir, Hatari, JFDR, Vök, and Bríet are among the musicians collaborating in a schedule of online charity performances, taking place January 25-31. The program is organised by the Red Cross of Iceland and a community-driven project Saman Fyrir Seyðisfjörð, to support the rebuilding efforts of the Seyðisfjörður community following the devastating mudslides that destroyed several buildings in town just before Christmas 2020.

The event is organised by the Red Cross in Iceland, the artists themselves, and Saman fyrir Seyðisfjörð, a collaborative project that works to support the rebuilding of the Seyðisfjörður community by hosting an online schedule of performances and artwork donated by the creative community of Iceland. Saman fyrir Seyðisfjörð translates as Together for Seyðisfjörður and on their social media, they have been sharing some behind-the-scenes looks into the lives of the community in Seyðisfjörður. For years, the Seyðisfjörður community has hosted artistic education programs, artist residencies and the Lunga Art festival, embracing and nurturing a creative connection to a global community of artists, that now wants to give back to the town’s residents.

Saman fyrir Seyðisfjörð will be streaming on samanfyrirseydisfjord.info, January 25-31. The program includes performances from, Ásgeir, Bríet, Sillus X Hermigervill, Bjartar Sveiflur, Sykur, Hjaltalin, Halldór Eldjárn, Hatari, Vök, JFDR, Cyber, Benni Hemm Hemm & Prins Póló & Ívar Pétur, Abby Portner, Sunna Margrét, Sexy Lazer, Samantha Shay & Andrew Thomas Huang, Hrafn Bogdan, Sodill, Crystal Lubrikunt, Forest Law, Augnablik, Rex Pistols, Pamela Angela, MSEA, Una Björg Magnúsdóttir, Nana Anine, Boris Vitazek, Supersport! and many more to be announced later.

All donations raised by Saman fyrir Seyðisfjörð will go towards rebuilding and supporting the community of Seyðisfjörður. Saman fyrir Seyðisfjörð funds will be distributed by the Red Cross in collaboration with the community in Seyðisfjörður. Text ‘HJALP’ to 1900 (from an Icelandic phone) to donate 2,900 ISK or go to gefa.raudikrossinn.is/9544 for Icelandic and international donations.

 

Seyðisfjörður Mudslides: Hope Residents Can Return Home Today

Seyðisfjörður is still on alert due to the risk of further mudslides and the situation in Eskifjörður will continue to be monitored. Weather conditions in the area have hindered cleaning efforts. Partial evacuation is still in place but the situation will be reassessed today and experts hope that evacuation can be lifted.

An announcement from the Civil Protection Department of the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police and the Chief of Police in East Iceland stated that there’s a continued level of danger in Seyðisfjörður. While partial evacuation is still in place due to a continued risk of mud flow, they hope to be able to further lift evacuations today. Some people have been away from home for three weeks at this point and around 40 people celebrated Christmas in an emergency response centre.

Seyðisfjörður saw heavy rains yesterday.  The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration opened the mountain road yesterday afternoon but the roads were icy and they’re closed again today. There have been no reports of mud flow or rumbling sounds in the area in the past few days. Readings from yesterday morning indicate that there has been little to no movement at the source of the mud flow.  No clean-up operations were scheduled yesterday in the evacuation zone due to weather conditions but they are scheduled to resume tomorrow. Today, experts at the Meteorological Office and their associates will reassess conditions and the need for continued evacuations.

East Iceland Police Chief Superintendent Kristján Ólafur Guðnason told RÚV the weather conditions are affecting the situation. Data transport to the Meterological Office has been affected and the road closures have had an adverse effect on the people of Seyðisfjörður’s sense of safety, as the road over the mountain is the only available escape route on land.

In Eskifjörður, no evacuation orders are in place and no mudslides have fallen on residential areas. No movement has been measured over the last 24 hours as cracks formed in the road up to Oddskarð.  The area will continue to be monitored. The Meteorological Office has installed a camera monitoring the cracks and stationary points are measured once a day to anticipate any movement in the mountainside. The most recent measurements indicate that there’s no shift.

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.

Two Farms Vacated and Road Closed Due to Mudslides

Mudslide in Eyjafjarðardalur from Hleiðargarðsfjall above Gilsá river

Police have closed part of the road through the Eyjafjarðardalur valley due to repeated mudslides in the wake of a larger mudslide on Oct 6. Two farms and a summerhouse have been vacated due to the danger.

Just before 11 am, Oct 6, a large mudslide occurred in Hleiðargarðsfjall mountain above Gilsá river in Eyjafjarðardalur in North Iceland. It came to a halt not far from the farmhouse at Gilsá II. The mudslide is about 200 m wide, 1700m  long and with a vertical drop of 700 m. According to the Iceland Meteorological office, the cause of the mudslide is not known but is most likely due to unstable surface material aided by precipitation, although rain has not been excessive (20 mm in the last week and just over 70 mm for the past four weeks). Aerial photos indicate that the area where the mudslide originated had been unstable so the precipitation might have been enough to cause the mudslide in the loose surface material. Smaller mudslides have occurred in the area before, and this mudslide is not thought to indicate increased mudslide risk in the area overall.

mudslide
North-east Iceland Police

Mud is still sliding from Hleiðargarðsfjall mountain above the Gilsá II farm. Mud and rocks have slid past the farmhouse and over the road. Buildings in the area, two farms and a summerhouse were vacated after the first mudslide and will remain empty until the danger has passed. Yesterday, the road was closed as well. Police, as well as experts from the Met Office, continue to assess the situation. While there was still a considerable flow of water through the mudslide yesterday, it had lessened today. The situation will continue to be monitored as the flow of water in the area fluctuates, and the surface material is still unstable.

Before the mudslide, a few M4 earthquakes occurred northeast of Gjögurtá, which were felt in Eyjafjarðardalur. It can’t be ruled out that the earthquakes or the ones in the weeks leading up to the event might have contributed to the mudslides. Mudslides often occur following earthquakes, but usually, that happens after larger quakes and the mudslides usually occur closer to the earthquake’s epicentre. This mudslide is not thought to indicate increased mudslide risk in the area overall.

Archaeologists Search for First Settlement in Seyðisfjörður

An archaeological dig is currently underway in Seyðisfjörður, East Iceland, where researchers hope to find dwellings built by the the fjord’s first settlers. RÚV reports that the excavation is centred in an area where the first settlers were often beset by mudslides and avalanches, as current residents are indeed still today.

One of the deadliest avalanches in Icelandic history occurred at Mt. Bjólfur in Seyðisfjörður in 1885. Twenty-four people lost their lives in the event. Avalanche guards are currently being erected on the mountain, but first, researchers are examining the area for archaeological remains that could well date back to the settlement era. A previous investigation in 1998 gave archaeologists reason to believe that there might be artefacts or ruins buried there.

Screenshot RÚV

Mudslide before 1477

More than 20 exploratory trenches have been dug in Seyðisfjörður this summer in search of these ancient settlements. These trenches show clear traces of a great mudslide that fell atop human habitations. By analysing the tephra layers, archaeologists have been able to determine that the mudslide occurred sometime after 1362 but before 1477. Employees of the Icelandic Met Office had discovered evidence of this historical landslide in 2018, but it’s only now clear how big it actually was.

“It seems to have been at least 250 metres [820 ft] and in the thickest spots, it’s at least a metre [3 ft] and there are big boulders in it,” explained Rannveig Þórhallsdóttir, the archaeologist who is overseeing the dig. “It’s remarkable, you can really picture the natural disaster that occurred here. And it seems to be on top of a human habitation, so that’s really interesting. We’ve also found three buildings that we’ll excavate next summer. We’re curious to see whether we’ll find evidence of the first settlement in Seyðisfjörður, but all signs point to us doing so.”

Two of the buildings are near Fjörður, a settlement era farm, while the third is in the northern part of the area. Preliminary results from tephra analyses done on-site indicate that the buildings could have been built either between 940 and 1160, or at least before 1477. Human habitations that might date back to the 12th century have also been found at a depth of 110 cm [3 ft] under a mudslide in nearby hayfields.

Modern lessons

Evidence of a large avalanche has also been found. “A lot of people died in that avalanche and houses collapsed,” continued Rannveig. “One of the houses we’ll examine next summer [collapsed], but the stone walls remain. The woodwork [collapsed], but people in that house survived. So to some extent, we’re also examining traces of the avalanche of 1885 and the effect it had on the settlement.”

Rannveig sees a lesson for the modern era in the archaeological dig. “It’s great that three large avalanche guards are being erected above Seyðisfjörður precisely because we’re can see in black and white how important it is that we protect the places we live.”

 

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).

Largest Landslide in Icelandic History

An enormous landslide on Fagraskógarfjall mountain in Hítardalur in West Iceland took place early on Saturday morning, flooding a well-known salmon fishing river with mud and rock and almost completely changing the face of the landscape RÚV reports. The landslide is thought to be the largestthat has ever occurred in Iceland.

Experts say that the uncommonly wet summer weather is to blame for the event. “This is a direct consequence of all this rain,” remarked geologist Finnbogi Rögnvaldsson who was called to the site yesterday. Police and Icelandic Search and Rescue were also on the scene, which has been closed off for obvious safety reasons.

Local farmer Erla Dögg Ármannsdóttir told RÚV that the landslide has formed a sort of dam across the Hítará river. “The dam is a few dozen meters high—I’m not exactly sure—and several hundred meters long and it’s completely blocking the Hítará, which is a serious issue.” She explained to Vísir that the blockage has caused a lagoon to form on one side of the dammed river “which is rising with every hour.” As of time of writing, it was unclear what direction the water would go once it became higher than the landslide, but it is clear that this event will redirect the path of the river entirely and have a big impact on the salmon that live in it.

See a video of the landslide taken by a drone here.