From Iceland — PM: "Today We Are All Westfjorders"; Justice Minister: "One House Flooded Is One Too Many"

PM: “Today We Are All Westfjorders”; Justice Minister: “One House Flooded Is One Too Many”

Published January 15, 2020

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Art Bicnick

In the wake of three avalanches that struck the Westfjords last night, both Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir and Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir have offered their responses to the situation. The Prime Minister has pledged to visit the area when the weather allows, and the Justice Minister believes the government needs to examine what measures can be taken to prevent or lessen the impact of future avalanches.

As reported, three avalanches, two in Flateyri in one in Súgandafjörður, across from Suðureyri, struck within very little time of one another around midnight last night. While there were no deaths nor any serious injuries, there was extensive damage to harbour structures and boats, and many residents have been left traumatised.

Both Katrín and Áslaug, who met this morning to assess the situation, spoke with reporters about the event.

“It is of course a relief that there was no loss of life, but it’s clear that the property damage is severe,” Katrín told RÚV. “The weather is still poor, so we need to monitor the situation closely as developments arise and hope for the best.” She added that she intends to travel to the area when the weather permits.

Katrín also wrote about the matter on Facebook, evoking the tragedy of Flateyri 1995, wherein an avalanche claimed the lives of 20 people.

“I’ve heard from some Westfjorders today and they are all in shock,” she wrote in part. “The avalanche of 1995 was brought up, when a terrible loss of life occurred. I also heard from some dear friends in the west, and felt how heavy this event weighed on them. Today we are all Westfjorders.”

Áslaug, in speaking to RÚV, said that the possibility of sending financial aid to the region was being considered. She took a decidedly more personal tone in talking to Vísir, wherein she referred to a 14-year-old girl who had been buried in snow in her room for half an hour before being rescued. While the girl is reportedly recovering well, the event apparently affected Áslaug greatly.

“This is a Herculean task that [rescue workers] performed, and are continuing to perform, saving that girl,” she told reporters. “It is of course one house too many if an avalanche made its way in, and we need to examine how we can do better and how we will respond in the future.”

Many of the residents of these villages are currently in Ísafjörður, recovering and meeting with crisis workers, while a total assessment of the damage to the villages is being conducted.

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