From Iceland — 20 To 90 Days Left Until Road Will Be Buried Underneath Lava

20 To 90 Days Left Until Road Will Be Buried Underneath Lava

Published May 28, 2021

Alina Maurer
Photo by
Axel Sigurðarson

According to RÚV, it is estimated that it will take about 20 to 90 days for the lava to flow from Fagradalsfjall into the valley of Nátthagi. The problem is that there are fiber cables along the valley, which could be destroyed. Large earth banks have been built, in order to slow the lava flow down.

Saving the fiber cables

The data provider is now struggling with time in order to plow the fiber-optic cables along Suðurstrandarvegur before that happens. Additionally, they have to be at a depth deep enough to be protected from the lava.

Many kilometers of fiber-optic cables are now positioned by Suðurstrandarvegur. The cables have to be laid in the ground quickly, in case the lava reaches in the coming weeks. Elísabet Guðbjörnsdóttir, project manager at Gagnaveitur Reykjavík, states that for safety, the tubes surrounding the cables can withstand temperatures of 190°C. “We are plowing down to such a depth that we are protected from lava, we are just racing against time to try to bring this down.”

Suðurstrandarvegur also in danger

Lava has already begun flowing down Nátthagi valley this weekend. Forecasts assume that the lava will flow to the sea, but no one knows for sure when this will happen. “There is talk of anything from 20 days up to 90 days we have before this has come too far for it to be possible to do anything,” says Rögnvaldur Ólafsson, assistant chief of police at the civil defense.

Lava 2 km away from the road

Since Monday, the lava flow into Nátthagi has not increased, but the thickness of the lava wall has risen. There are still about two kilometers from the lava to Suðurstrandarvegur. Currently, it is being assessed whether defensive measures, such as earth banks or deepening landscapes, will be taken, as was attempted above Nátthagi.

According to Rögnvaldur, it is currently being evaluated whether the costs for defense or the costs of doing nothing will be higher. Suðurstrandarvegur could be buried under lava and become impassable for a while. “This is a transport infrastructure that is used a lot, for example for fish transport. These are all things that need to be taken into account,” he emphasizes.

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