Yesterday marked the twentieth anniversary of the avalanche in Flateyri, the West Fjords, where 20 people lost their lives―ten men, six women and four children. A memorial service was held in Flateyri Church last night to commemorate the victims, mbl.is reports.
Minister Fjölnir Ásbjörnsson reports the service was very well attended. “We, of course, remembered those who died and honored their memory, but we also thought of those who survived and those who helped us when we were in need.” Music was provided by members of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, the musician KK, and a children’s choir. Candles were lit and placed at a memorial for the victims.
The residents of Flateyri were fast asleep when the avalanche hit at 4:07 am, October 26, 1995. Forty-five people were hit by it, twenty-one managed to get out on their own, four were saved, but twenty lost their lives, RÚV reports.Seventeen houses were completely destroyed.
lAnother fatal avalanche took place in January that same year in Súðavík, also in the West Fjords, where 14 people died. Harpa Grímsdóttir, program director at the Icelandic Met Office says 1995 marked a turning point in avalanche preparedness in Iceland, according to RÚV.
The decision was made to reevaluate all risk assessment in the country and new methods for risk assessment were developed at the University of Iceland and the Icelandic Met Office. Harpa believes our weather memory is short. “The longer time passes between such events, the likelier it is that that people start forgetting. Then it’s essential for us to have laws and regulations in place to ensure we don’t end up where we were prior to 1995.”
Municipalities are now responsible for protecting inhabited areas where the risk of avalanches is the greatest, or for buying houses in such areas and moving them elsewhere.