Protective Walls Near Lava Buy Time in Case of Evacuation

Trying to tame Nature.

Trying to tame Nature. mbl.is/Kristinn Magnússon

Vaa Hafstað

Yesterday, around noon, a huge lava river began streaming just behind the eastern protective wall that had been built near the lava stream by Fagradalsfjall mountain, Southwest Iceland, mbl.is reports. It turns out that lava from the lava lake farther uphill is flowing through underground channels toward the edge of the lava field.

As a result, the protective walls, recently built on the south side of Meradalir valleys, are being raised from four meters to eight. Bogi Adolfsson, who heads the rescue team Þorbjörn, states that the work is proceeding well and should be completed within ten days. He stresses that the wall is not intended to stop the lava stream. In addition, he notes that the new lava stream does not pose any risk to workers at the site.

One of the protective walls in Meradalir valleys.

One of the protective walls in Meradalir valleys. mbl.is/Unnur Freyja

“Those are designed to slow down the lava stream,” he explains. “It’s all about buying time, testing and planning for the future. This way, we obtain useful information about how this can be used if [the lava] approaches inhabited areas. In addition, we placed a cable underneath to be able to see how heat is conducted through the earth and whether it affects the cable. Plenty of useful information is being obtained this way. This may never stop [the lava flow], but let’s say it would buy us time in case a community needs to be evacuated.”

Bogi Adolfsson.

Bogi Adolfsson. Photo/Sigurður Bogi Sævarsson

He adds there are no plans to raise the walls beyond eight meters or resort to other measures if this proves not to work.

“There is not much you can do,” he notes. “We might build walls farther down the hill. That kind of decision would come from above.”

There is a long weekend ahead, Monday being a holiday – the day after Pentecost – and the weather forecast is fairly good. Bogi asks anyone who intends to visit the site to exercise caution. “Be sensible, and it’s a good idea to say hi to the rescue workers you run into on the way,” he suggests.

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