Estimated Damage in Grindavík ISK 10 Billion

grindavík evacuation

The damage to homes and infrastructure in Grindavík could amount to ISK 10 billion [$71.4 million, €66.3 million], according to the director of the Natural Catastrophe Insurance of Iceland. Before paying out damages, authorities must reconsider the town’s zoning plan and whether some areas will be deemed no longer safe for residential housing. The town has been evacuated since November 10, after seismic activity and a magma dike opened crevasses and damaged roads, homes, and infrastructure.

230 Grindavík properties damaged

All buildings in Iceland are insured against natural disasters and insurance premiums are collected alongside fire insurance. The Natural Catastrophe Insurance of Iceland, a public institution tasked with insuring the main value of properties against natural disasters, has received reports of damage to 230 properties in Grindavík. So far, 140 of them have been inspected and the institution’s director Hulda Ragnheiður Árnadóttir stated she hopes the remaining 90 will be inspected by the end of the week.

Zoning reconsidered in Grindavík

The seismic events in Grindavík began in late October and earthquakes and land deformation continued over several weeks. Land deformation is still ongoing at Svartsengi, north of Grindavík. Hulda Ragnheiður says the circumstances of the damage are unusual as it occurred over a relatively long period of time. “That’s why it’s difficult to start paying out damages while it hasn’t been decided which areas are suitable for habitation.”

Experts have stated that Grindavík is at risk of further earthquakes and eruptions in the coming weeks and months and it is still unclear when it will be safe for the town’s 3,600 residents to return home. In some areas where damage has occurred, authorities may decide to ban rebuilding due to ongoing risk.

“I think it’s inevitable that the layout of the town will change in some way,” Hulda Ragnheiður stated. “All of the decisions that will be made are in the jurisdiction of the municipality of Grindavík in collaboration with scientists and the government. We will receive the information that comes out of that and process it.”

House Destroyed in Fire Caused by Electric Scooter

A house in eastern Reykjavík was completed destroyed in a fire caused by an electric scooter that was being charged, RÚV reports. The police investigation into the fire concluded that the scooter was indeed the cause of the fire, which burned down the two-storey, wooden house. No one was injured in the incident.

It took firefighting crews six hours to tame the flames at the scene on Tuesday, and they told Vísir that an explosion had occurred within the house. Crews removed the roof of the structure in order to put out the fire more easily. This is not the first time that a plugged-in scooter has started a fire in Iceland: police and firefighters have previously warned of the dangers of charging electric scooters at home.

University of Iceland Facilities Damaged by Water Leak

University of Iceland flood

All operations are suspended until at least noon today in the University of Iceland’s University Centre, Gimli, Lögberg, Árnagarður, and Main Building. The cause appears to be a breach in a large cold-water pipe in west Reykjavík. The extent of the damage is being assessed, but it is believed to be considerable.

The water damage is greatest in the University Centre building (Háskólatorg) and Gimli, according to Kristinn Jóhannesson, Director of the Operations and Resources Division at the University. Total damage will likely be costly to repair. “We have a sense it will run into hundreds of millions [of krónur, over a million USD]. It is tremendous damage,” Kristinn stated.

Kristinn was fairly certain that valuable manuscripts and documents at the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies had not been damaged by the leak. Some of the affected buildings house artwork and it remains to be seen whether it has been damaged.

Extreme Weather Causes Travel Disruptions, Power Outages, and Property Damage

Waves crashing over Reykjavík lighthouse

The predicted severe winds hit the country this morning, causing travel disruptions, property damage and disruptions to capital area services. The red alert warning has now expired, although an orange warning is still in effect for the whole country. Parts of the south coast are still without power and some without hot water but capital area services are returning to normal with the city buses running again and healthcare clinics and post offices reopened. Road closures in the south have been lifted for the most part but roads in the north and Westfjords are still closed

A particularly deep low-pressure area was predicted to move over the country, causing the Met Office to issue a red alert for the second time ever since implementing the colour-alert system in 2017. The first time was this December in north Iceland. High tide was an added concern as the combination meant that tall waves could cause problems.

Waves by Harpa during extreme weather
[/media-credit] Photo by Golli

Extensive precautions were put in place, and most main roads in the country, including all roads to and from the city, were closed this morning when the worst of the storm hit. On the road by mt. Hafnarfjall between Reykjavík and Borgarnes, a steady wind speed of almost 30 metres per second and a particularly strong gust of wind measured 71 metres per second (159 miles per hour). Some roads have now been reopened in the south but road closures are still in effect in North Iceland. In North Iceland and the northern part of the Westfjords, some roads have been closed due to danger of avalanches.

The extreme weather caused power outages, mostly on the south coast but also in Hvalfjörður and Húsafell in West Iceland. On the south coast, power has been restored to Höfn but the surrounding area is still without power. The towns of Vík and Vestmannaeyjar are running on backup generators and hotels are packed with travellers unable to continue their journey due to road closures. Power outages in the south coast also caused hot water shortage in Hella and Hvolsvöllur. Repairs are in progress.

Services in the city were suspended – kindergartens, schools and universities were closed, as well as post offices and health care centres, but since noon, most services are back to normal. A few instances have been reported of the wind tearing roof plates off buildings and bus stop shelters from the ground, requiring search and rescue volunteers to weigh them down to prevent further damage. In the greater Reykjavík area, the wind was felt the most in Kjalarnes, where the wind blew a roof partially off a building and sundecks off the ground.

Tourists watch boats in Reykjavík marina during extreme weather
[/media-credit] Photo by Golli

On the Reykjanes peninsula, the wind in collaboration with high tides meant that tall waves crashed over residential areas, even flooding a house in Garður. A coastal street within Keflavík was closed due to tall waves crashing over the street. In Vestmannaeyjar, a boat was unmoored and later sank. Tall waves crashed over the Reykjavík harbour and boats were damaged.

Search-and-rescue volunteers had a busy night all over the country, with the first calls starting just after midnight. Few injuries have been reported, but in Hvalfjörður a man was hit by a roof plate that had been blown loose. He was transported to hospital in Reykjavík.

Search and Rescue volunteers deal with storm damages
[/media-credit] Photo by Golli

While the extreme weather is subsiding in the south, an orange alert is still in place for the whole country today and travellers should consult www.safetravel.is before setting off. A thunderstorm is expected to hit the south coast tomorrow, a rare occurrence in Iceland.