Home Business Iceland struggles to house residents left homeless by volcanic eruption

Iceland struggles to house residents left homeless by volcanic eruption

by SuperiorInvest

To house evacuees from Grindavik, the Icelandic town where lava flooded some homes last week after a volcanic eruption, a former prime minister proposed building a new town from scratch. One politician said Airbnbs across the island nation should be restricted to make room for residents. And a radio host suggested turning away asylum seekers and focusing resources on helping Grindavik “refugees.”

“Evacuating 1 percent of the nation,” Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir said, “is a huge challenge.”

Grindavik, a fishing village in southwestern Iceland, is still under threat from volcanic eruptions and is considered uninhabitable by experts in the near future. Before the eruption, about 3,700 people lived there, a significant number for Iceland, whose total population is only 400,000 inhabitants. Authorities are struggling to house residents and contain their financial losses, and the issue dominates national debate.

Residents of the city live in hotel rooms, in summer houses, in temporary rental apartments or are accommodated by relatives.

Thorgerdur Eliasdottir, 67, a Grindavik restaurant worker, said she and her cat had moved five times since the city was first evacuated in November. She said she planned to move again soon to an apartment that she will be able to rent for three months.

“I have an old wooden house in Grindavik,” he said in a telephone interview. “I wish the government would just put him in a car and take him to a safe place.”

The Icelandic real estate market was already saturated by a combination of population growth and tourism, which has picked up again after the pandemic. According to Iceland’s tourist board, as of last summer there were more than 8,000 rooms in the capital region available for short-term rentals.

For those interested in purchasing a home, interest rates exceed 9 percent.

Fannar Jonasson, mayor of Grindavik, whose office moved to City Hall in the capital Reykjavik, said a shortage of places to live meant residents were now scattered across the country, with many struggling to find long-term housing.

“On all fronts, we are now working toward a long-term solution,” he said in a telephone interview Thursday.

The population of Grindavik has grown rapidly in recent years due to the influx of people from Reykjavik, which is only 30 miles away.

After the eruption, banks agreed to freeze residents’ mortgage payments, but residents said they would not be able to get insurance payments unless their homes were directly destroyed.

Bryndis Gunnlaugsdottir, a lawyer and former Grindavik resident, said that when she saw her neighbor’s house under the lava, but saw her own house still standing, “it was the worst moment since the evacuation.”

Speaking Tuesday at a packed meeting with politicians and scientists, he added that if his house had burned down, his financial stress would be relieved.

“The noose around my neck would be gone,” he said, because his house would have been covered by insurance.

The government is now partially subsidizing the rent of former Grindavik residents, but lawmakers are discussing a bill that would allow the government to buy all the houses there and then offer them back to the former owners once the area is deemed safe. again.

Vilhjalmur Arnason, a legislator and resident of Grindavik, said that would be the only way to respond to the demands of locals.

“Let’s build a new house now,” he said in a telephone interview as he left a meeting with the government’s finance committee in Reykjavik. “So we can find a new starting point.”

Volcanologists said volcanic activity in the southwest of the Reykjanes Peninsula, where Grindavik is located, was predicted to last between 10 and 20 years. Recent earthquakes have also created cracks in the city, and last month, a construction worker fell into a crater believed to be 40 meters or more than 130 feet deep. He is presumed dead. The eruption also broke the main pipe channeling hot water into Grindavik homes.

“There is no reason for people to live in Grindavik,” said Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson, an adviser to the civil defense agency.

But Gudmundsson added that volcanic activity could move away from the craters that threaten Grindavik, allowing the city to be safe again.

Gisli Palsson, an anthropology professor who studied the impact of a 1973 eruption in the Westman Islands, the last time a volcanic eruption displaced part of Iceland’s population, said the apocalyptic predictions for Grindavik reminded him of the desperate tone of the first weeks after the eruption there.

“At first, a lot of people said it was all over for the city,” he said. But, he added, when the eruption stopped, many people, who had strong roots in the area, eventually returned.

Source Link

Related Posts