Hundreds of Minor Earthquakes Registered Since Midnight

Grindavík - Þorbjörn

Around 500 earthquakes, most of which were relatively minor, have been registered near Mount Hagafell on the Reykjanes peninsula since midnight, Vísir reports. A service centre offering support and counselling for Grindavík residents will open in Reykjavík’s Customs House today.

Largest of magnitude 2.6

Bjarki Kaldalóns Friis, a natural hazards specialist, was on duty at the Icelandic MET Office last night. Speaking to Vísir this morning, Bjarki described the seismic activity on the Reykjanes peninsula as having followed a familiar pattern. “There have been around 500 earthquakes since midnight. The largest was of magnitude 2.6, occurring 3.12 AM,” Bjarki remarked.

Bjarki noted that the epicentre was near Mount Hagafell, east of Mount Þorbjörn, where most of the seismic activity was concentrated last night. This is consistent with the pattern over the past few days. “This is right in the middle of the volcanic fissure, more or less.”

According to the Icelandic MET Office, the gradual decrease in the intensity of seismic activity over the past few days owes to the significant stress release due to earthquakes in the area and the deposition due to the magma intrusion. As a result of this stress release, it is likely that the magma has an easy path to the surface.

Seismologist Kristín Jónsdóttir told Vísir yesterday that volcanic tremors and shallow earthquakes will be measured hours before an eruption begins. Geophysicist Freysteinn Sigmundsson added that the warning for an eruption would be at least half an hour.

Customs House to become makeshift service centre

The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management announced last night that a service centre for the residents of Grindvík would open in the Customs House (i.e. Tollhúsið) in Reykjavík. The service centre, which will offer community gatherings, support, counselling, and information, will be open between 10 AM and 6 PM on weekdays.

In an interview on the radio programme Bítið this morning, Víðir Reynisson, Head of the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, discussed, among other things, the role of the service centre. “It will afford the people of Grindvík a place to meet, but equally important, we plan to gather experts who can answer questions, including those related to damage claims. We will also provide psychological support and help people to come together.”

The press has been requested to avoid the service centre area, with the municipal authorities in Grindavík aiming to invite the media for a visit later today. Víðir also stated that the authorities had drawn up plans to allow select Grindavík residents brief visits to their homes to retrieve valuables today. “There are a few residents who have been unable to do so, and we aim to resolve this today.”

Iceland University of the Arts to Receive Permanent Home

Tollhúsið Tryggvagata

The Iceland University of the Arts (Listaháskóli Íslands, or LHÍ), will be uniting all of its departments in a single, specially-designed facility in the Tollhúsið building in downtown Reykjavík, Iceland’s cabinet announced in a press conference this week. LHÍ has operated its departments in several disparate facilities since its inception in 1998. A design competition will be launched this autumn where participants will aim to show how all of the university’s operations can be consolidated under a single roof in Tollhúsið.

Government acts to strengthen creative industries

Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson announced the decision at a press conference on the Suðurnes peninsula last Tuesday, where the cabinet also presented several other measures in support of the arts. The initiatives include establishing a research centre for the creative industries at Bifröst University and the Creative Iceland project, which would work on advancement within the creative industries in Iceland as well as their export. At the conference, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir pointed to research showing that Iceland’s creative industries make a significant economic contribution to Iceland, while also stating they have immeasurable value toward forming the nation’s identity.

Built in 1970 to welcome cruise ship passengers

Located near Reykjavík’s Old Harbour, Tollhúsið was designed by Gísli Halldórsson and completed in 1970. Its original design included a harbour warehouse on the ground floor and a customs office for cruise ship passengers arriving in the harbour. After Sundahöfn harbour came into operation, however, activities at the old harbour decreased. The building features a mosaic by Gerður Helgadóttir from 1973 depicting the harbour activities before the construction of Tollhúsið. The street below the mural is now under construction to transform a parking area into a pedestrian square.