Evacuation Partially Recalled, Roads May Open Soon

Seyðisfjörður

The partial evacuation of two East Iceland villages–Neskaupstaður and Seyðisfjörður–has been recalled for the former, Austurfrétt reports. Some area roads are still impassable but may open later today.

High winds, heavy snow

As reported, high winds and heavy snow began moving into the region at the start of the weekend. These weather conditions, combined with the tall, steep mountains that East Iceland is famous for, can increase the danger of avalanches.

These two villages, like many other human settlements in East Iceland, rest at the foot of such mountains. For this reason, the neighbourhoods in these villages most in direct danger of an avalanche were evacuated on Saturday.

Roads may reopen today

While Möðrudalsöræfi, Fjarðarheiði and Vopnafjarðarheiði–heath areas with roads connecting coastal villages to the main highway–are still closed at the time of this writing, they may reopen this afternoon, weather permitting.

The current forecast for the region shows snow continuing through the day, but with winds calming down. Check the Met Office site and SafeTravel before venturing into the area.

Two Villages Evacuated Due to Avalanche Danger

avalanche neskaupstaður

The Icelandic Met Office has reported that North and East Iceland are in an “uncertainty phase”, and the East Iceland villages of Neskaupstaður and Seyðisfjörður in particular are in a “danger phase”, due to the chance for avalanches. As a result, parts of both of those villages have been evacuated until further notice.

High winds, heavy snow

The weather forecast predicted the presence of high winds and heavier snowfall moving into East Iceland over the weekend and, as reported, these weather conditions in areas with tall and steep mountains elevate the risk of avalanches. These topographical regions are most prevalent in two areas in particular in Iceland: the Westfjords, and East Iceland.

In addition to these villages being partly evacuated, Seyðisfjarðarvegur–which is the road that connects Seyðisfjörður to Egilsstaðir on Route 1–will also be closed due to the weather.

Alert to extend into evening

The weather is expected to worsen as the day progresses, but is also expected to clear up by Monday morning.

Those planning on traveling through this area during this period are strongly advised to forego those plans, and to check both the Met Office and SafeTravel for updates.

Aid Station Opens in Neskaupstaður Following Avalanches

neskaupstaður avalanche

An aid station will be opening today, April 3, for the residents of Neskaupstaður and surrounding settlements that have been affected by the recent avalanches.

Some 850 residents have been forced to evacuate their homes since the first avalanches on the morning of March 27, making it one of the largest evacuations in Icelandic history. It has also been one of the largest ICE-SAR operations in Icelandic history, with some 300 members present at the height of rescue operations. Many residents have since returned, with The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management asking the returning residents to make use of the aid station.

Read more: Evacuations in Three Additional East Fjord Towns

Government ministers also made a trip out to the affected region over the weekend, including Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir and Minister of Environment, Energy, and Climate Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson.

The ministers met with municipal representatives to survey the progress of the operations and discuss future prevention measures.

Almannavarnir ICE-SAR
ICE-SAR teams at Egilsstaðir Airport – Almannavarnir

Katrín stated to RÚV: “It is a great relief that it was not worse and no one died in these avalanches. That’s the most important thing, but at the same time, the damage is extensive and it is shocking to see the effects of the avalanches. It is extremely important to provide strong support now.”

She stated further: “I understand that the municipal authorities are putting a lot of emphasis on speeding it up as much as possible. What faces us ministers who are here is to review these plans and investigate what can be done to accelerate this project even further.”

Read more: East Iceland Residents Warned of Heavy Rain and Runoff

In addition to the aid stations, Red Cross in Iceland will also be offering psychological services to affected residents.

The coast guard vessel, Þór, is also set to leave the area today. Dispatched on March 27, its crew has had a busy week assisting rescue operations. It was the first time Þór was dispatched in this capacity. In total, Þór left the capital region with a total complement of 40, including a crew of 20 and 20 members of ICE-SAR and the Reykjavík Fire Department.

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.

Three Avalanches in Neskaupstaður

avalanche neskaupstaður

Three avalanches struck Neskaupstaður, a town in the Eastfjords, in the night and early morning of March 26-27. Morgunblaðið reports.

One of these avalanches is reported to have hit an apartment building, breaking windows and burying cars.

avalanche neskaupstaður
Slysavarnafélagið Landsbjörg

A state of emergency has been declared in the area by The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management. Communications Director for Civil Protection, Hjördís Guðmundsdóttir stated: “The National Police Commissioner, in consultation with the police chief in East Iceland, has declared a public safety emergency due to the avalanches that fell in Neskaupsstaður this morning, Monday, March 27. It has been decided to evacuate other areas where there is a risk of avalanches, both in Neskaupstaður and in Seyðisfjörður. Mass relief centres have been opened in both places […] Rescuers are working on site. ICE-SAR teams have been called out, and the Road Administration is working with us to clear the way for rescuers. An emergency has been declared in Neskaupstaður, and residents are advised to stay at home and on the side of the house facing the hillside.”

Visibility conditions in the area are reported to be poor, and clearing the way for rescuers may take into the evening.

The state of emergency is expected to be in effect for the rest of the day while rescue operations are underway. The coast guard ship Þór has also been dispatched to the area to aid in rescue operations.

Initial reports indicate some damage to property, but no injuries or deaths.

German Boy Says Thanks for All the Fish

The Síldarvinnslan fishing company in the remote East Iceland village of Neskaupstaður received an unexpected letter of thanks from a satisfied customer in Germany last week.

“The letter writer is a young boy in Cuxhaven,” read a post on the company’s Facebook page. “His name is Hauke Nörenberg. In the letter, he describes his satisfaction with the fish from Síldarvinnslan and sends the company his regards…It isn’t often that consumers see fit to send their thanks for good products in this way.”

The company sent their young fan a photograph of Blængur NK, the ship on which the fish was frozen at sea, as well as Síldarvinnslan company swag.

You can read Hauke Nörenberg’s letter (in German) on the Síldarvinnslan Facebook page, here.