Iceland // The West Fjords //

Flateyri’s avalanches

Flateyri is known across the country for its avalanche problems: the colossal earth dams separated by 15m walls on the lower slopes of the omnipresent mountains here are man-made barriers against the snowfalls which occur every year. A memorial stone next to the church, at the entrance to the village, bears the names of the twenty people who died in the most recent devastating avalanche, in October 1995. The tragedy was a painful loss for this closely knit community where the total population is barely over three hundred, not least because the frozen ground and heavy snow prevented the bodies from being buried in the village cemetery; instead, they had to be kept in the morgue in Ísafjörður until the ground thawed and they could be buried in Reykjavík. Extensive rebuilding was necessary after the avalanche, including the erection of the defences which now effectively channel all snow-slides into the sea. From the filling station at the entrance to the village, a short path (10min) leads up to a viewpoint on the mountainside giving a superb panorama, not only of Flateyri and Önundarfjörður, but down into the lifesaving earth dams.

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