From Iceland — As Record Number Of Tourists Visit Volcanoes, Authorities Warn Not To Walk On Lava

As Record Number Of Tourists Visit Volcanoes, Authorities Warn Not To Walk On Lava

Published August 15, 2022

Photo by
Isak Finnbogason - ICELAND FPV

Tourists should not walk on freshly cooled lava when visiting the Meradalir eruption, authorities warn. It is nearly impossible for search and rescue workers to reach people if they get stuck on the lava because it is very sharp, reports Vísir.

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“There’s always someone who wants to step out onto the lava. Of course, we don’t like it, and those who do this will be on their own. If people disappear into the lava, there is little we can do,” says Suðurnes police chief Úlfar Lúðvíksson.

If people continue to walk on the lava after being told not to, authorities may have to issue fines. This has not been a problem yet.

“It is very difficult for us to get our hands on these individuals. Of course we try to bring them down, but we don’t send responders into danger zones. We always protect our people first before we think about saving others,” Úlfar says.

Hiring rangers

Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson told RÚV that officials are planning to hire rangers to replace the volunteer search and rescue teams currently monitoring the area.

“Let’s remember that the rescue teams are the backbone of our public defense system, but they are not designed for such long-term guarding or guidance in these areas. We are now in the process of hiring rangers who did very well last time and putting them in this daily service and on-site monitoring,” Jón says.

Rescue teams will still be on stand-by in case anything happens that requires their intervention.

Changing injuries

As crews have worked to make the trail more accessible, search and rescuers are seeing patterns in the types of injuries, Bogi Adolfsson, chairman of Þorbjörn’s rescue team in Grindavík, told Fréttablaðið.

At the beginning of the eruption, most injuries were broken ankles from the rocky terrain, Bogi says. Now, there are more face and hand injuries as people are falling down steep slopes.

Rescue workers have also had to provide food for people who did not anticipate how long the hike to the eruption takes, Bogi said. Visitors should pack a lunch and plenty of snacks to sustain them throughout the journey.

Breaking records

Using common sense and following directions from authorities are particularly important now that a record number of people are visiting the eruption. Nearly 6,500 people visited the area on Saturday, breaking a record of just over 6,000 people in one day traveling to the eruption at Geldingadalir last year. A total of 472,677 people have passed through the eruption area on the Reykjanes Peninsula, reports Fréttablaðið.

There were many minor accidents on Sunday, which saw a similarly high number of visitors. One person had to be driven off the site in a rescue vehicle, according to RÚV.

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