Blue Lagoon Reopens Despite Ongoing Eruption

blue lagoon Iceland

The popular tourist destination Blue Lagoon reopened at noon today after being temporarily closed since a volcanic eruption began in nearby Sundhnúkagígar on March 16.

The spa was evacuated when the eruption began and has been closed for three months in total during the span of volcanic activity in Sundhnúkagígar that started in November of last year. Concerns over gas pollution from the volcano were the main reason for closure this time around.

Coordination with police

Helga Árnadóttir, Blue Lagoon manager, told RÚV that staff and management were excited to begin operations again following this latest three week shutdown. “We’ve been in conversation with the Suðurnes police commissioner and gone over the situation, the shifts, measurements, risk assessments and other things,” she said. “And the result was that we agreed that it would be sensible to reopen today.”

Increased security

Helga said that operating hours would be adjusted according to gas pollution estimates and wind forecasts at each time. “It’s all to ensure that we’re not risking the safety of our guests and staff at any given time,” she said, adding that wind forecasts for the next few days were looking good. Gas meters have been set up along the area and safety personnel are on duty to help with response if evacuation is needed at any time.

New Eruption Lengthier Than Previous Ones

The latest Reykjanes peninsula eruption has already gone on for longer than the previous three eruptions in this recent spell of volcanic activity in the area. The eruption, which began Saturday, is still being fed by magma pooling under nearby Svartsengi, which is causing crustal uplift in the area, RÚV reports.

Lava may spare road

The fissure between Hagafell and Stóra Skógfell sent lava flowing both west and south and while the flow to the west has stopped, lava still flows to the south, bypassing the town of Grindavík, but heading in the direction of Suðurstrandarvegur.

This raised cause for concern, for several reasons. If it reached Suðurstrandarvegur that would naturally further impede traffic to and from central Reykjanes; the road Grindavíkurvegur, which connects Grindavík to the Reykjanesbraut highway, has already been overrun with lava. However, the lava has not crawled closer to Suðurstrandarvegur road since yesterday, according to local police.

Air pollution decreasing

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution from the eruption has decreased since the beginning of the eruption. Projections show the remaining air pollution spreading to the northeast from the eruption site.

The Suðurnes police commissioner has allowed Grindavík residents and those employed in town to stay there and work, arguing that Grindavík is not under threat from the current lava flow. However, it is recommended that people don’t stay in Grindavík overnight.

Grindavík Residents Can Stay Overnight at Own Risk

An ambulance lingers just outside of Grindavík

Grindavík residents are permitted to stay overnight in the evacuated town as of today, but do so at their own risk. The Chief of Suðurnes Police has decided to permit the town’s residents as well as those who work in the town to stay and work there without restrictions. There is currently neither hot nor cold water in the town, and the Suðurnes police notice underlines that Grindavík is not safe for children.

No water, heating, or schools

Grindavík (pop. 3,600) was initially evacuated last November due to seismic activity and the threat of an eruption. Earthquakes and three eruptions since December have opened crevasses throughout the town, and damaged buildings and roads as well as power and water infrastructure.

The notice from Suðurnes police underlines that residents enter and stay in the town at their own risk and are “responsible for their own actions or inaction.” The notice underlines that the town is “not a place for children or children at play. There are no operational schools, and infrastructure is in disrepair.” There is currently neither hot nor cold water in the town, though authorities are working to restore both.

Police chief does not recommend staying overnight

In order to enter the town, residents, workers, and media professionals will have to apply for a QR code. Those who do enter the town are advised to stick to roads and sidewalks and avoid going into lots or other open areas due to the risk posed by crevasses.

“The police chief does not expect many Grindavík residents to choose to stay in the town overnight. They are allowed to do so, but the police chief does not recommend it,” the notice continues.

The arrangement will be reviewed again on February 29, barring and major changes in the area. Land rise continues at Svartsengi, north of Grindavík, and further eruptions are expected.

Police Reassess Grindavík Risks

Grindavík crevasse

The Reykjanes police commissioner will maintain the restrictions for access to Grindavík that have been in place for the last five weeks, despite the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management’s order to evacuate having expired yesterday. The situation is being reassessed, RÚV reports.

The January 14 volcanic eruption near Grindavík destroyed three houses, caused crevasses to form across town, and displaced the 3,800 inhabitants for the foreseeable future. The town had already been evacuated once before, on November 10 last year, due to seismic activity. The latest eruption on February 8 damaged a hot water pipeline, cutting off heating for Reykjanes homes.

Eruption risks remain

Access to Grindavík will be controlled by the Reykjanes police commissioner going forward. According to the Icelandic Meteorological Office, there is still major risk of crevasses in Grindavík, while crustal uplift by nearby Svartsengi continues and likelihood of further eruptions remains.

“The conclusion of the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management’s crevasse risk assessment is that stay and work activities in Grindavík are acceptable in light of the countermeasures in place,” the department announced in a notice. Dangerous areas of the town have been fenced off and access to them limited.

Fatal Accident in Reykjanesbær, Investigation Underway

Small boat fishermen crowd the Arnarstapi harbour each summer for the coastal fishing season

A fatal workplace accident occurred yesterday at Fitjabraut in Reykjanesbær, Vísir reports. An investigation is currently underway.

Reports of a loud explosion

Yesterday morning, a fatal workplace accident occurred at Fitjabraut in Reykjanesbær. Vísir reports that police received a call about the incident at 11:27 AM, and emergency services quickly arrived at the scene.

“The responders confirmed upon arrival that the accident was fatal. An investigation is currently ongoing, and further details are not available at this moment,” stated the Suðurnes Police.

Vísir’s sources indicated that a loud explosion was heard at the time of the accident. Fitjabraut, where the incident took place, is mainly an industrial area located near Reykjanesbær’s harbour.

Police Oversees Partial Entry of Additional Grindavík Residents

Traffic into Grindavík following mandatory evacuations

The Chief of Police in Suðurnes has authorised restricted access for residents and businesses to a specific part of Grindavík. This controlled access, meant for essential visits only, does not imply that the area is open for general traffic.

Area remains closed for general traffic

Approximately 900 earthquakes have been recorded in Reykjanes since midnight today, November 13. According to the Icelandic MET Office, the seismic activity is concentrated in the southern part of the fissure between Sundhnúkur and Grindavík at depths of 2-5 kilometers. The situation near Grindavík remains largely unchanged from yesterday; seismic activity decreased since late Friday and early Saturday.

In light of this, the Chief of Police in Suðurnes has again granted limited access to a designated area in Grindavík for residents and businesses today. This area is specified as being east of Víkurbraut and north of Austurvegur, extending up to Ægisgata.

Residents from these neighbourhoods have been directed to a meeting point along Suðurstrandarvegur, where they are currently registering and receiving further instructions for entry. At this moment, vehicles from the response team are prepared to transport individuals into Grindavík.

As noted by the police, this is a carefully managed operation that is not to be taken lightly. The authorisation for access does not imply the area is open for general traffic. Residents of Grindavík permitted into specified neighbourhoods should follow these guidelines:

  • Only go if absolutely necessary.
  • Each household is allowed only one person to enter the area.
  • Prepare a list of items you intend to retrieve before leaving.
  • Remember to bring your house key.
  • Have a pet carrier ready if needed.
  • Bring a bag or container for items.
  • Time inside the home will be limited.
  • Those entering should not have severe allergies to animals, as pets may be brought back.
  • This access is solely for retrieving very important items such as pets, essential medications, possibly passports, or other indispensable household items.
  • Residents may drive vehicles left behind during evacuation out of the area, but only in the company of response personnel.

As noted by IR yesterday, Grindavík suffered significant earthquake damage over the weekend, impacting homes and infrastructure. The Head of the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management told reporters yesterday that the ongoing uncertainty regarding a possible eruption means that it is unlikely that Grindavík residents will be able to return to their homes in the near future.

Record Number of Travellers Denied Entry at Keflavík Airport

Keflavík Airport

Keflavík Airport has registered a record 258 denials of entry this year, mostly in association with suspected criminal activity. The Suðurnes police have also been active in investigating smuggling and money laundering cases and have made significant seizures.

258 travellers denied entry in 2023

Keflavík Airport has seen a record number of passengers denied entry, with 258 denial cases recorded so far this year. Most denials are linked to individuals’ connections to criminal activities, Mbl.is reports.

Last year, the Suðurnes police investigated 69 cases related to drug smuggling, money laundering, and illegal export of cash. This year, 58 such cases have been reported. In many of these cases, as reported by Mbl.is, suspects were arrested at Keflavík Airport either upon arrival or due to suspicions of carrying illicit funds when departing.

Significant seizures at the border

Authorities have seized 65 kg of cocaine, 14,000 tablets of oxycontin, 1,800 tablets of contalgin, 100 kg of cannabis, amphetamine base, and other banned substances. Additionally, ISK 60 million [$432,000/€410,000] in cash has been confiscated.

In 2022, 80 individuals were held in custody by the Suðurnes police for a total of 2,903 days, averaging 8 individuals daily. This year has seen 96 individuals detained for 2,617 days, with an average of about 10 individuals being held in custody every day.

Stress the importance of vigorous border operations

A press release from the police, and reported on by Mbl.is, underscores the importance of strong police and customs operations at Keflavík Airport. This includes well-trained staff, essential equipment, and appropriate working conditions. The collaboration between European countries on police cooperation and border control, based on the Schengen Agreement, is particularly extensive and demanding for Iceland, given its distance from mainland Europe.

Eruption Site Closed Due to Gas and Wildfire Pollution

Almannavarnadeild ríkislögreglustjóra. The eruption on Reykjanes, July 10, 2023

The Suðurnes Chief of Police has decided to close the active eruption site on Reykjanes due to dangerous pollution levels from wildfires as well as the eruption itself. The site will be closed until Saturday, when authorities will review whether conditions have changed. The eruption is significantly stronger than the 2021 and 2022 eruptions at the same site and has been producing significant gas pollution and set off wildfires in the surrounding vegetation.

Some enter site despite warnings

In a written statement, the chief of police said the safety of people entering the site could not be ensured in the current conditions. The prevailing winds are now blowing the gas pollution from the eruption along the hiking route, and smoke pollution from wildfires is adding to the danger. Nevertheless, some travellers have ignored the warnings of first responders and have entered the site.

The eruption began on Monday, July 10 and so far only minor injuries have been reported from the site, such as twisted ankles and exhaustion. However, Hjördís Guðmundsdóttir, Communications Director for the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management stated that visitors’ behaviour was not exemplary yesterday. “It’s just a matter of time before something serious happens,” she told RÚV.

Worse pollution than 2021 and 2022 eruptions

The air quality at the current eruption site is much worse than at the 2021 and 2022 eruptions, according to Vísir. This is in part due to the wildfire smoke. “We see that the smoke from wildfires is spreading over a large area,” Gunnar Guðmundsson, lung specialist and Professor of Medicine at the University of Iceland, told mbl.is. “When vegetations burns, small soot particles form in the smoke, so the smoke can be very irritating to the eyes and respiratory system.”

The smoke is mostly a risk for hikers at the site and residents of the Suðurnes peninsula need not be concerned, Gunnar stated. He did encourage those with sensitivities, such as asthma, to show caution and use medication when necessary.

Hell’s Angels Expelled from Iceland

Twenty-two members of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang were deported from Iceland on Saturday morning. The Hell’s Angels are one of several motorcycle gangs that are gaining ground in Iceland and the expelled members have suspected ties to organized crime. Vísir reported first.

The individuals had apparently come to Iceland to attend a gathering in the capital area. Icelandic police have protocols in place to address the arrival of “people connected to motorcycle clubs” and were ready and waiting when 15 members of the Hell’s Angels landed at the airport from Germany. These individuals were detained and questioned while authorities determined whether they would be allowed to enter the country. No arrests were made at the airport, although seven of their fellow club members were stopped and arrested by police on the road to/from the airport on the same day. Those individuals had flown to Iceland from Sweden.

RÚV reports that the cases of five other Hell’s Angels members who arrived from Denmark are still under review, but it is assumed that they came to Iceland to attend the same gathering.

This is not the first time this year that members of international motorcycle clubs have been expelled from Iceland upon arrival. In February, a high-ranking member of the Bandidos motorcycle club in Sweden was deported; three members of the Finnish Bandidos club were deported in October 2021. Bandidos MC is another motorcycle with international chapters that is believed to have established a foothold in Iceland.

Bomb Threat on German Flight Investigated at Keflavík Airport

An airplane on its way from Frankfurt, Germany to Seattle, Washington in the US landed in Keflavík on Monday afternoon as a result of an onboard bomb threat. RÚV reports that the plane turned around over Greenland when Icelandic aviation authorities received word that a passenger on the plane had written “BOMB” on the mirror in one of the aircraft lavatories.

Two hundred and sixty-six passengers were onboard the flight, which was operated by German airline Condor. The plane was successfully evacuated after landing in Keflavík. Bomb squads from the National Police Commissioner’s special forces and the Icelandic Coast Guard were called to the scene, but no bomb was found, neither on a passenger’s person, in the onboard luggage, or on the plane itself.

All flight passengers were interrogated on Monday and evidence collected from passengers’ luggage. The initial investigation was concluded around midnight, by which point, the passengers had been waiting in a closed section of the airport for seven hours. They were then transported to 11 different hotels in the area for the evening and the original aircraft was flown back to Germany. A new aircraft with a new crew was sent in its place.

On Tuesday afternoon, all the flight’s passengers were allowed to leave the country on the new aircraft, which departed from Keflavík around 3:00 pm.

The culprit behind the threat has not yet been identified.

Police will continue to investigate the incident. Úlfar Lúðvíksson, chief of police in Suðurnes, says the investigation will be extensive and could take several months.