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Bárðarbunga Prompts New Law on Emergency Management

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Bárðarbunga Prompts New Law on Emergency Management

Holuhraun

The eruption in Holuhraun is fed with magma from Bárðarbunga volcano, which lies under Vatnajökull glacier. A sub-glacial eruption could result in massive flooding in rivers. Photo: Elisabetta Rosso.

If the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management were to declare a state of emergency, the minister responsible for the issue could ration electricity, limit telecommunication and cut off roads, according to a new bill presented at a cabinet meeting yesterday. The bill was drafted in response to the ongoing activity in Bárðarbunga volcano, ruv.is reports.

The bill, which was posted on the website of the Ministry of the Interior after the meeting (Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson is currently responsible for judiciary affairs), states that the consultation group of the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police’s Department of Civil Protection and Icelandic Catastrophe Fund believe that the seismic activity may result in “a possible catastrophic flood following a sub-glacial eruption which could have immense impact on inhabited areas and society’s main infrastructure, such as the production and transmission of electricity, telecommunication and transport.”

It has been pointed out that flooding in the rivers Þjórsá and Tungná could have severe consequences because six hydropower plants are located on their banks, producing approximately 40 percent of Iceland’s electricity.

According to the bill, the minister responsible for the issue could also temporarily take over the board of companies and institutions to execute emergency strategies if deemed absolutely necessary and if the persons who are in control don’t comply with demands.

The state does not have to pay damages because of emergency measures carried out in such a scenario but the state treasury is to cover the costs involved.

The bill is intended to clarify the obligations of the key persons in power in natural catastrophes and make sure that they have the authority necessary to respond to such emergency situations.

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