Impending volcanic eruption in Iceland: Five minutes to pack

As of: November 13, 2023 6:31 p.m

There has been rumblings under the Icelandic town of Grundavik for days – roads and water pipes have already been destroyed. Because of the impending volcanic eruption, residents now have to evacuate their houses as quickly as possible.

By Julia, Waschenbach, ARD Studio Stockholm

The residents of Grindavík had to leave their homes in a hurry. Now many of them were allowed to go back briefly to get what they needed. Supported by police and rescue workers, they only had a few minutes to gather valuables, passports, clothing and toothbrushes.

Solveig Thorbergsdottír stuffs plastic bags with her possessions into her car. “I was so confused when I got into the house. I only had five minutes, but I tried to stretch it to 15 and saved everything I saw,” she says.

Water pipes and power lines destroyed

The earth has been shaking in the coastal town of Grindavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula since the end of October. Magma moves beneath the surface over a length of 15 kilometers. The underground force has torn huge furrows in the streets, destroying water pipes and power lines.

After many sleepless nights, the residents had to get out of their houses. It is no longer safe. Thorbergsdottír doesn’t know whether she will see her house again. But at least she now has a lot of sentimental value with her: “Photos of my grandchildren. Photos of me when I was young. My best clothes, my wedding dress.”

Much else remains behind. Also many animals: cats, parrots, sheep, chickens. Omar David Olafsson drives away with a trailer full of sheep crowding around and bleating wildly. “These are our sheep, they were in the house. Now we’re evacuating them.”

“That’s the situation right now”

Five minutes to pack up your life. Only one person per household. Police officer Olafur Orvar Olafsson understands that this is a stressful situation for the residents. He organizes the action. “No one has complained to us yet. I could understand if they weren’t happy with it. But that’s the situation right now.”

The residents of Grindavík are already worried about what will happen after the earthquakes. Mateusz Droszkowski is originally from Poland and only bought his house in Iceland last year.

“We put all the money we had into it and sold our house in Poland. We wanted to start a new life here. Now everything is uncertain, we have a lot of credit and don’t know whether the bank or insurance will help us become.”

Meanwhile, the threat of a volcanic eruption continues to hover over the Reykjanes Peninsula. Nobody can predict exactly where – and whether at all – an outbreak will occur.

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