Grindavík Sees Workers Team Up to Clear 700°C Lava

An ambulance lingers just outside of Grindavík

Around 100 people are working on repairs and salvaging operations in Grindavik, tackling tasks like restoring heating, power, and water supply, in addition to clearing new lava at a temperature of about 700°C. Strict safety measures are being observed.

Clearing a considerable amount of lava

As noted in a Facebook post by the Grindavík-based rescue team Þorbjörn yesterday, around 100 people have been engaged in various repairs and salvaging operations in the town of Grindavik in recent days. According to the update, the utmost safety has been observed in these efforts and “tremendous energy” has been invested in various projects in the town.

“Plumbing and electrical teams, accompanied by response units, have been traversing the town, working hard to restore heating to houses. The extent and amount of work vary by location, but efforts have been made to cover as many houses as possible. This work is nearly complete as of the time of writing.”

The update noted that teams from Landsnet (a transmission system operator) and the utility company HS Veitur have worked to restore the power line between the Svartsengi Geothermal Power Plant and Grindavik, a task that was completed last night. Earthmoving contractors, along with Grindavik’s fire brigade and municipal employees, have also been working to get the town’s cold water supply back up and running.

This requires clearing a considerable amount of new lava, still about 700°C. “This work is progressing well, and hopefully, water will be restored soon,” the post from Þorbjörn reads.

700-metres of fencing

Several hundred metres of fencing have also been erected in Grindavik to enclose areas where fissures and potential land collapses pose a threat, particularly in open spaces where the ground has not been reinforced or where fissures are visibly open. 

“Everyone working in Grindavik these days must adhere to strict safety requirements and receive specific safety instructions. For instance, each person must wear a fall-arrest harness and helmet, accompanied by response units equipped with gas detectors and communication devices. In the industrial area in the eastern part of Grindavik … people must be secured with safety lines while working there.”

A portable five-metre steel bridge has also been constructed to cross fissures and enhance the safety of those working in Grindavik. Plans are underway to build another similar bridge to keep multiple roads open simultaneously.

“All these measures aim to increase the safety of those in Grindavik, with the goal of starting valuable salvaging operations as soon as the opportunity arises. There is now a strong emphasis on planning the salvaging of valuables in the town, but as previously mentioned, such actions cannot commence until the risk assessment map from the Icelandic Meteorological Office changes,” the post reads.

“Finally, we would like to express our profound gratitude to everyone who has participated in the projects in Grindavik recently. Unity and collaboration have characterised the work, with up to 100 people involved in operations each day.”

Budget Constraints Force Sale of Nation’s Only Surveillance Aircraft

TF-SIF

The operation of the Coast Guard’s surveillance aircraft, TF-SIF, will be discontinued to meet budgetary constraints. The decision marks “a major step back” in the nation’s response and surveillance capacity, the Director General of the Coast Guard noted in a recent press release.

Operations proven difficult over the recent months

The operation of the Coast Guard’s surveillance aircraft, TF-SIF, will be discontinued this year in order to streamline the Coast Guard’s operational costs, a press release from the Coast Guard notes. The Ministry of Justice sent a letter to the Coast Guard earlier this week asking the Coast Guard to prepare the sale process:

“The operation of the Coast Guard has proven difficult in recent months due to enormous oil price increases; increased operations, including a larger and more powerful patrol vessel; as well as decreased participation from Frontex (The European Border and Coast Guard Agency) than expected.”

In April of last year, Georg Kr. Lárusson, Director General of the Coast Guard, informed the Ministry of Justice that the conditions for Coast Guard’s operational budget “no longer held” owing to the fact that the current budget had not followed more extensive operations and because of increases in the price of oil and other budgetary items.

As noted in the press release, funding for the Coast Guard was increased by ISK 600 million ($4.3 million / €3.9 million) in this year’s budget. This increase was expected to prove insufficient, in light of last year’s operating deficit, unless measures were taken that would “compromise the organisation’s statutory roles and response capacity.”

A major step back in the nation’s response and surveillance capacity

Georg Kr. Lárusson observed that the decision to sell TF-SIF represented “a major step back” in the nation’s response and surveillance capacity.

“When it became clear that the organisation would not receive further financial contributions, a conversation began with the Ministry of Justice concerning possible ways to get the Coast Guard’s finances back on track. There was no good option in the situation, and we are very disappointed to be forced to stop the operation of the surveillance aircraft, given that it is a specially equipped patrol, rescue, and medical transport plane and an important part of the country’s public safety chain.:

“Since 1955, the Coast Guard has operated an aircraft for surveillance and rescue operations along the coast of Iceland. The current decision is, therefore, a major setback in the nation’s response and monitoring capacity. TF-SIF is one of the most important links in the agency’s response chain, and with this difficult decision, a large gap is cut in the Coast Guard’s operations. We also consider the presence of the plane in this country to be an urgent national security issue, especially in light of the changing global political landscape” Georg was quoted as saying.

Reykjavík City Council Approves Extensive Budgetary Measures

City of Reykjavík strike

At a meeting yesterday, Reykjavík City Council approved measures intended to save over ISK 1 billion in operational costs over the coming year, RÚV reports. Among the measures are the expansion of paid-parking zones and decreased subsidies for electric-vehicle charging stations located by apartment buildings.

92 budgetary items

At a City Council meeting yesterday, the majority submitted an amendment to Reykjavík’s 2023 budget. The amendment comprises a total of 92 items, which are expected to save over ISK 1 billion ($7.1 million / €6.7 million) over the coming year.

As noted in the meeting’s minutes, City Council deems that the measures reflect “sensible financial management,” noting that the pandemic has impacted municipalities all over the country. “The reaction is natural and befitting the occasion, serving to protect front-line services and vulnerable groups.”

Among the measures are amendments to meal purchases for preschools; reduced opening hours for youth centres (which will close at 9.45 PM as opposed to 10 PM), museums, and swimming pools (during holidays); expansion of paid parking zones; and decreased subsidies for electric-vehicle charging stations near apartment buildings; among other things.

In an interview with RÚV on Wednesday, Einar Þorsteinsson, Chair of City Council, stated that the residents would “feel these changes.” These budgetary cuts were not fun but necessary in order to improve Reykjavík’s finances.

Operational losses of over ISK 11 billion

During its meeting yesterday, the City Council also reviewed an interim financial statement for the city’s operations during the first nine months of the year. The statement revealed that the city’s “A Section” – primarily funded by taxpayer money – was operated at an ISK 11.1 billion ($7.1 million / €6.7 million) deficit.

In a press release published yesterday, City Council stated that numerous factors had impacted its finances: “A new variant of COVID-19 at the beginning of the year put temporary pressure on operations, especially on the school and welfare system. The war in Ukraine, in addition to the pandemic, led to a shortage of raw goods and slowed down production time, which has negatively impacted global markets and led to increased inflation among our trading partners. The Central Bank, owing to rising real-estate prices, high inflation, and overheating of the domestic economy, raised key interest rates; all of this has had an impact.”

As noted in a press release on the City’s interim financial statement, however, the City’s A and B sections – the “B” section includes businesses in part or whole ownership of the city, such as Reykjavík Energy (OR), Associated Icelandic Ports (Faxaflóahafnir), Sopra bs. and Strætó bs., among others – produced a surplus of ISK 6.8 billion ($48 million / €46 million).

This article was updated at 11 AM.