Salmon farm workboat helps out with Iceland avalanche tidal wave rescue

Stian Olsen

Three large avalanches hit Iceland last week.

Three large avalanches fell in quick succession in the Westfjords of Iceland, causing a tidal wave which took most of the countryside’s fleet with it. This particular was in village of Flateyri.

Crew onboard the “Fosnakongen” from the aquaculture service supplier Abyss Aqua showed up at short notice and helped with salvage and cleanup.

Snow avalanches have been reported by several Icelandic media lately, and according to the reports, no people were seriously injured following the incident.

Svein Arne Vågen is captain on board the “Fosnakongen”, the largest workboat for the Norwegian Abyss Group.

The vessel is under a three-year contract with Arnarlax, Arctic Fish and Ice Fish Farm in Iceland, where it assists in service work up to salmon farms.

PHOTO: Páll Önundarson

When the disaster occurred, crew onboard the “Fosnakongen” received a request from salmon farmers if they could help with clean-up work in Flateyri after several fishing vessels sank.

“Of course, we would. They released us since this was so important and we wanted to show solidarity with the affected,” said Vågen.

Very grateful
According to Vågen, the “Fosnakongen” was located in the village of Bíldudalur, which SalmonBusiness visited in September 2018, when they were asked if they would like to help. The workboat arrived in Flateyri on Saturday.

PHOTO: Páll Önundarson

“When we got there the first thing we saw was that five boats had sunk. In addition, one was completely below the surface,” said Vågen to SalmonBusiness.

According to Vågen, several of those working in salmon farming companies have been affected by the avalanches.

“They are very grateful that we assisted. There is a lot of emotion around,” he said.

Heard screams
Vågen added that he saw the avalanches come down the mountainside and that he came in contact with one of the locals, who told of the drama that occurred when the snowfall occurred.

“The first which took the boats, was a good width, about 300 meters wide. After that, people had begun to organize themselves to evacuate. The second came about 40 minutes later and went over the snow avalanche protection, which was set up for safety. The wife of the man down at the harbour called and said the neighbour’s house had been taken, and she heard screams from this,” said Vågen.

According to Icelandic media, the girl was buried in the snow in her neighbour’s house while she was in the bedroom. The mother, and two siblings, were in the room next door and were not hit.

“In the next room where the girl was, there was a window up to the mountain. It was not in the other room where the mother and two other children were,” said Vågen.

The avalanche crushed the window and poured into the bedroom.

“The whole room was filled with snow, I was told, but there was a 60 centimetre opening up to the ceiling. Rescue crews entered the room and excavated the girl,” said Vågen.

The girl is well now, says Icelandic media.

Continues cleanup on Tuesday
Vågen said that people have now moved back into the houses in Flateyri, where about 200 people live. According to the captain of the “Fosna King”, it has created uncertainty that the physical security measures against snow avalanches, which were set up when 20 people lost their lives in a snow avalanche in 1995, failed.

“They no longer have 100 per cent confidence in protection anymore,” says Vågen.

On Tuesday, the clean-up work for the three employees on board the “Fosnakongen” continues.

“It’s been two days of bad weather, so we haven’t done anything. So we start today again,” he told SalmonBusiness.

On Thursday, the boat goes on to Reykjavik, where it will go for a check-up and will be back in action in around three weeks.


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