Attending the meeting were Chief Superintendent Jón Bjartmarz from the Civil Protection Department of the National Police; Hreinn Haraldsson, director of the Iceland Roads Administration; and Árni Gunnarsson, chairman of the Icelandic Travel Industry Association. The Government wishes to congratulate the Civil Protection Department and the Iceland Road Administration for their quick, professional response and the coordination of effort with rescue squads , which is, as always, invaluable. All possible action has been taken to expedite repairs and guarantee travellers' safety.
The Iceland Road Administration aims to complete the construction of an emergency bridge over the river Múlakvísl in the next 10 days, so that Route 1, the Ring Road around Iceland, will be reconnected in the middle of next week. While the road is impassable, passengers and smaller passenger vehicles will be transported over the river, whereas larger and higher vehicles can take the detour along Route F208, Fjallabaksleið nyrðri.
When the glacial outburst flood in Múlakvísl washed away the bridge on the Ring Road early on the morning of Saturday 9 July, the main transport route through South Iceland was severed. The Civil Protection Department's National Crisis Coordination Center was activated at that time. The cost of rebuilding the permanent bridge, constructing an emergency bridge, repairing the road and protective barriers, and providing enhanced police and rescue assistance and related contingency services has been assessed at ISK 500 million.
Cost no object
The Government has given the Iceland Road Administration and other parties engaged in repairs, rescue efforts, and other tasks related to the flood full authorisation to take all possible action to restore the connection of Route 1 as soon as possible. These parties are also authorised to take the emergency measures necessary, such as those related to ferrying of travellers and repairs of Route F208, Fjallabaksleið nyrðri, while the Ring Road is being repaired. Cost will not be allowed to stand in the way of such measures.
The Iceland Road Administration places strong emphasis on constructing an emergency bridge over Múlakvísl and bringing it into use as soon as possible. Two crews of bridge construction workers are currently working on the project, and more will be called in as needed. It is considered likely that, if the crews work in shifts around the clock, the bridge can be completed in 10 days and the Ring Road reopened in the middle of next week.
While the Ring Road is closed, it is possible to travel between communities in South Iceland via Route F208, Fjallabaksleið nyrðri. Fjallabaksleið nyrðri is passable only for strong, high vehicles and powerful busses. The maximum speed has been reduced to enhance traffic safety, and maximum axle weight has been set at 7 tonnes. The Iceland Road Administration has made some repairs to the road and is handling repair and service. Law enforcement officers and ICE-SAR rescue squad teams will be on site to assist travellers. The Road Administration has also erected signs along several of the main routes in the national road system, notifying travellers of significant delays. It should be noted that busses and flights between Reykjavík and Höfn are operating on schedule.
Passenger vehicles ferried over the river
It is possible to transport passengers and passenger vehicles over Múlakvísl free of charge, as two large trucks and a bus have been equipped to provide this service. The service will initially be available from 8:00 hrs. until 22:00 hrs. Car rental agencies have set up transfer stations at the river, enabling drivers to leave a vehicle on one side, cross the river by bus, and take another vehicle on the other side. Work is underway to increase the volume of traffic that can be handled in this manner.
Information on www.iceland.is
In order to provide reliable information to travellers, Íslandsstofa will ensure that the Promote Iceland website, www.iceland.is, provides a portal to the websites of the Iceland Road Administration, the Civil Protection Department, Safe Travel, the Iceland Meteorological Office, and others. The Road Administration will update information and/or maps on a regular basis. As needed, the Icelandic Tourist Board will send tourism operators updated information, in English and Icelandic, based on status reports from the Civil Protection Department and information from the Iceland Road Administration, so that tourism operators can provide safe, consistent information on the state of affairs.