Emergency Phase Declared and Grindavík Evacuated

Evacuation of Grindavík on the Reykjanes peninsula

The town of Grindavík on the Reykjanes peninsula has been succesfully evacuated amid concerns that the intrusion of magma, believed to extend beneath the town, may reach the surface. An emergency phase has been declared, and the Red Cross has set up three emergency relief centres.

Evacuation complete

The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, in collaboration with the Suðurnes Police, has declared an emergency phase owing to seismic activity in the Reykjanes peninsula. A mandatory evacuation of the town of Grindavík has been completed. The evacuation order was put into effect amid concerns that the intrusion of magma, which is believed to extend beneath the town of Grindavík, may reach the surface. The volume of magma that has accumulated has surpassed that of the previous three eruptions in the area.

A residential facility for disabled individuals and a nursing home for the elderly, severely damaged in recent earthquakes, were evacuated last night prior to the mandatory evacuation being imposed.

Not since the Westman Islands

During a press conference after 11 PM yesterday, Víðir Reynisson, Head of the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, reminded residents that the evacuation was mandatory and was being carried out with the safety of the residents in mind. The Icelandic Meteorological Office’s instruments show clear signs of magma movement towards the surface.

“It is clear that we are dealing with events that we Icelanders have not experienced before, at least not since the eruption in the Westman Islands. We faced that together, we will face this together, and we will not be disheartened,” Víðir observed.

Grindavíkurvegur, a road leading to Grindavík from Reykjanesbrautin, was also closed last night due to a large crack that formed in the middle of it. The Road Administration has completed emergency repairs, but the road will remain closed.

Three emergency relief centres opened

The Red Cross has opened three emergency relief centres. These are located at Vallarskóli in Selfoss, the sports hall near Sunnubraut in Reykjanesbær, and Kórinn in Kópavogur. Domino’s has announced that it will deliver pizza to individuals staying at relief centres.

Residents of Grindavík who do not go to the emergency relief centres are asked to report their location by calling 1717. For more information on the seismic activity in Reykjanes, click here.

This article will be updated.

Semi-Automatic Weapons Seized During Domestic-Terror Plot Raid

Weapons and ammunition

Last week, the police arrested four Icelandic men suspected of planning a domestic-terrorism attack. During a press conference today, the police stated that numerous weapons, including semi-automatic firearms and 3D-printed components, had been seized during the investigation. Two of the suspects remain in custody and are being held in isolation.

The “first investigation of its kind”

Four Icelandic men were arrested last Wednesday, September 21, suspected of “terrorist plots” against state institutions and civilians. Two of the suspects were immediately released; the other two have remained in custody.

According to the police, the suspects had hoarded numerous weapons – including dozens of semi-automatic guns and 3D-printed components – alongside a considerable amount of ammunition. The men, all of whom are in their twenties, had discussed carrying out an attack during the police’s annual celebration (to be held on Saturday, October 1).

Chief Police Inspector Karl Steinar Valsson told reporters last week that this was the “first investigation of its kind to be launched in Iceland.”

Press conference
Grímur Grímsson and Sveinn Ingiberg at today’s press conference (Photo: Golli)

A long-awaited press conference

At 3 PM today, the police authorities held another press conference to update the public on the state of the investigation.

Taking their places behind their respective podia, Grímur Grímsson, Chief of the Capital Area Police, and Sveinn Ingiberg Magnússon, Chief of Police for the District Attorney’s Office, began by revealing that the National Police Commissioner, Sigríður Björk Guðjónsdóttir, had recused herself from the investigation as an individual connected to her had been named in the investigation.

According to Grímur, the police have executed 17 search warrants and seized numerous firearms, some of which had been assembled with 3D-printed components and others that had been modified to function as automatic weapons. The authorities have also seized magazines, bullets, silencers, and knives. Nevertheless, Grímur observed, the threat of a terrorist attack in Iceland “remains low“ and the police have seen no reason to raise the alert level: “There’s no reason to believe that we, as a society, are not safe,” Grímur remarked.

Grímur also noted that the investigation was complicated and time consuming: “We have eight different units working on the investigation. We’re investigating the 3D printer, various electronic data, weapons, and tips from the public. We’ve also sent quite a bit of data to police authorities in the Nordic countries and to Europol so that they may assist in our processing of the evidence.”

Police authorities
Grímur and Sveinn speak to reporters (Golli)

The suspects are being held in isolation

After the press conference, Grímur and Sveinn fielded a few questions, most of which were deflected on the grounds that the police could “not comment during this stage of the investigation.” It was revealed, however, that the two suspects are being held in isolation and that the police had arrested them less than 24 hours after suspicions of a domestic terrorism attack had emerged.

Grímur and Sveinn concluded the press conference by encouraging the public to report any suspicion of 3D-printed firearms or ammunition to the police.

This article was updated at 10.50 AM on Friday, September 30.

Government to Introduce Plan to Ease Social Restrictions Today

Minister of Health Willum Þór Þórsson

The government will meet this morning to discuss the Chief Epidemiologist’s new memorandum on the COVID-19 pandemic. After the meeting, the cabinet will hold a press conference to introduce its plan to ease restrictions. The press conference will take place at 11.30 AM at the Culture House in Reykjavík.

Ample reason for optimism

Less than 48 hours after significantly relaxing COVID-19 quarantine regulations, the government is expected to introduce a plan to begin easing social restrictions. The current restrictions – mandating a ten-person limit on social gatherings, in effect since January 15 – will expire on Wednesday, February 2.

In a speech before Parliament yesterday, Minister of Health Willum Þór Þórsson did not go into the details of the new plan but admitted that he was optimistic: “We are at a turning point, and there is ample reason to be optimistic, seeing as we’ve arrived at the point in this pandemic where we can begin easing restrictions,” Willum stated.

The easing of social restrictions is expected to lead to an increase in infections, as noted in a memorandum authored by Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason and submitted to the Minister of Health on Monday; a record number of COVID-19 cases were recorded yesterday and Wednesday (nearly 1,600). Despite the rise in infections, however, hospitalisations have continued to decline, and the state of the hospitals has been better than the most optimistic models predicted. The National University Hospital has been in an emergency phase since December 28, owing mainly to the absence of quarantining staff.

Step-by-step

In an interview with RÚV, Sigríður Dóra Magnúsdóttir, director of patient care at capital area health centres, stressed that the manner in which restrictions were eased mattered: “I believe that we should ease restrictions in deliberate phases, one step at a time. In this way, we can observe changes incrementally. Removing all restrictions at once, will make it much more difficult to turn back if things go awry. We’ve tried that approach, and I don’t recommend it.”

As noted by Mbl.is, Willum has suggested that the government would take a cautious approach to easing restrictions.

COVID-19 Update Expected at Government Press Conference

Iceland’s government has called a press conference at 4:00 PM this afternoon. It will be held on the Suðurnes peninsula in Southwest Iceland, where the cabinet convened at 10:00 AM this morning and will hold meetings all day. Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir stated that COVID-19 restrictions will be on the agenda. Current domestic restrictions expire on August 13.

“At our regular meeting I expect infection prevention measures to be discussed,” Katrín told Vísir. “The current measures run out in three days so we will discuss them.” Iceland reimposed domestic restrictions on July 24, including a 200-person gathering limit and one-metre social distancing, in response to rising COVID-19 case numbers. While health authorities have confirmed that vaccination is minimising instances of hospitalisation and serious illness in the current wave, they have also stated that the sheer number of cases is pushing infrastructure toward its limits.

Long-term COVID-19 policy will not be presented

A government notice stated that the press conference will also address “the progress of the projects in the government agreement and measures to support the creative industries.” The state council has met with various interest groups over the past two weeks in order to shape a long-term policy on tackling the ongoing pandemic. The Prime Minister stated, however, that a long-term COVID-19 policy would not be presented at today’s press conference.

“We’ve both been discussing this current wave and how we tackle it but also long-term measures,” Katrín stated. “We won’t present any long-term measures at this time. I can absolutely confirm that. The issue has not reached that stage.” She did, however, imply the government would present what measures, if any, would replace the current ones after August 13.

Iceland Review will live-tweet the press conference at 4:00 PM UTC.