Iceland Mag

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Iceland Mag


Authorities worry it will be impossible to warn travellers in time in case of Katla eruption

By Staff

  • Hikers on Sólheimajökull glacier If the volcano Katla erupts travellers in its vicinity will have as little as 15 minutes to get to safety. Authorities are particularly worried about hikers on Sólheimajökull. Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson.

Authorities fear it would be impossible to ensure that all travellers in the vicinity of the monster volcano Katla will receive emergency alerts in the case of an eruption. Travellers could have as little as 15 minutes to get to safety in the case of an eruption.

Read more: Eruption in giant volcano Katla grows more likely. Tourism poses challenges for evacuation

Katla has been showing growing activity in recent months. An eruption would most likely be accompanied by a catastrophic outburst flood which would affect the floodplains to the west or east of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier. Some of Iceland's most popular tourist destinations could be affected by the flood. In addition the glacier itself has been drawing growing numbers of tourists. One of it's outlet glaciers, Sólheimajökull, is popular a popular destination for glacier hiking tours.

Impossible to ensure everyone gets the warning
The Icelandic Post and Telecommunications Administration is currently preparing to test the coverage and strength of mobile communications networks in the Central Highlands. In the case of an emergency, like a volcanic eruption or a glacial outburst flood, text messages would be sent to all mobile devices in the affected area, advising residents and travellers to evacuate or move to safety. 

A spokesman for the Post and Telecommunications Administration told the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service that the coverage seems to be particularly spotty around Sólheimajökull. "Of course we can never ensure that everyone receives an emergency message."

The administration fears that the fifteen minute window might not be sufficient, and that many travellers who might be closer to the glacier will not receive the message.

An eruption in Katla would affect popular tourist destinations
A glacial outburst flood caused by an eruption in Katla would find its way into the glacial rivers of Mýrdalsjökull. These flow over the floodplains of Mýrdalssandur, Sólheimasandur and Markarfljótsaurar. 

Large numbers of tourists cross these every day, as the Ring Road crosses the floodplains, and their black sand beaches draw thousands of tourists. Seljalandsfoss waterfall, one of the most popular tourist destinations in South Iceland sits on the east edge of the Markarfljótsaurar floodplain, and the village of Vík is located at the western edge of Mýrdalssandur.

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