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An eruption, a flood, and some shallow apologies

What a crazy day it has been!

When I got up this morning, the aftermath of the Black Report was still the Issue of the Day. I flipped through Fréttablaðið during breakfast and was pleased to note that they aren’t shying away from the misdemeanors of their owners TOO much. I haven’t seen Morgunblather since the report came out, but what I’m hearing through the grapevine is that it’s formulating its reports in the softest possible way for the editor-in-chief, who is – from what I understand – still out of the country.

In general, I am pleased with what I’m seeing in the media. Especially RÚV, who have devoted large chunks of their time to the report. In fact I’m amazed at how fast RÚV was able to pick out many of the essentials last Monday and give pretty decent coverage, even calling in people for interviews who are harshly criticized in the report. And they’re not playing softball either, but asking hard questions. Today, for example, they asked President Ólafur Ragnar point blank if the verdict in the report didn’t warrant his resignation. He responded with great indignation and like the rest of them denied all the allegations, claiming they were based on misrepresentation and misinterpretations.

Well, “rest of them” isn’t perhaps quite accurate. One Minister, Björgvin G. Sigurðsson, has resigned as head of the central committee of the Social Democrats on account of the fact that the report deemed him negligent in his work during the collapse, when he was Minister of Commerce. However, that seems a bit shallow and designed, if anything, to boost his popularity [which isn’t up to many fishes, as the Icelanders would say] — after all, if he feels genuine remorse, then why doesn’t he go all the way and resign as MP? — However, the most hollow and superficial apology came from Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson, former mogul and owner of Landsbanki, who gets all maudlin in an article in Fréttablaðið this morning and says “sorry” about four times. He claims he wanted to wait until the report came out to express his remorse. WTF?! Does he expect to be taken seriously? Because he says “sorry” after the report has finally delivered a damning verdict of his actions? Why not before, then, if he was so TERRIBLY SORRY the whole time?

What a loser.

Anyway, about half of Fréttablaðið was devoted to the findings of the report and I wish I could go over them all here but that would take far too much time and space. Suffice it to say that it’s completely fascinating reading and amazingly enlightening.

As I mentioned in the last post, I was forced to shut everything off and get down to work because this is about the busiest I have been at work for about a year and I have a deadline to meet. So when I logged on to the news at some point while taking a little break I could hardly believe what I was seeing – i.e. that ANOTHER eruption had started in Eyjafjallajökull. Of course I had to watch the special news hour they had on at noon and, seriously, it was just too much. All the excitement about the report … and now this! [I bet Björgólfur and a few others were happy about the distraction, though.] Quite frankly it’s kind of hard to get your head around all the stuff that’s going down [not to mention when you’re forced to give all your attention to an assignment that has NOTHING to do with any of this]. It all seems slightly surreal.

So yeah, the new eruption is between 10 and 30 times stronger than the one we’ve had over the last three weeks. It started beneath the ice cap so caused a glacial surge [or jökulhlaup as it’s called in Icelandic, when large amounts of meltwater are released at the same time — as someone mentioned in the comments to last post]. Around 700 people were evacuated from their homes last night and by midday the flood was huge. It washed out one bridge and the Ring Road was broken to allow the water to flow through — i.e. they purposely dug through it in two separate places to allow the water to flow through to the sea and so it doesn’t wash out more bridges. Fortunately barriers that exist in the area have managed to protect the farms in the area — none of those have broken. How long this will last is still not known — it could be days or weeks or months. They are predicting that there will be surges of water coming through every now and again, so I guess it remains to be seen what sorts of precautions they will take.

Flights have been disrupted today and apparently all flights are grounded now in north Norway on account of the eruption. They are expecting a falling of ash tomorrow — in Norway [there is already loads of ash coming down east of Eyjafjallajökull]. Like I said — totally surreal!

I did manage to get out very briefly today — got on my bike and rode into town to buy a copy of the report before it was all sold out. It’s only printed in limited numbers and unclear whether there will be more printed. I got the last one in Eymundsson on Austurstræti — it had been reserved for someone until around ten minutes before I arrived, who for some reason didn’t take it. Lucky me!

I’m slightly surprised to see what an easy read it is. Some people expected that it would be written in heavy legalese or serious financial language, but it’s actually written like a fast-paced narrative, peppered with quotes and salacious details. Is there a book deal in the pipelines for the investigative committee?

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  • Ethan April 15, 2010, 7:02 am

    God is venting His fury that the Icelandic bankers have not been held to account…

  • Dave April 15, 2010, 7:05 am

    Stop erupting – we are having flights canceled today in the UK due to the cloud of Ash!!

  • Andrew April 15, 2010, 7:41 am

    A present from Iceland!

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/travelnews/7592562/Thousands-disrupted-as-Icelandic-volcanic-ash-shuts-British-airports.html

    Thousands disrupted as Icelandic volcanic ash shuts British airports.
    Thousands of passengers at British airports have been grounded after the eruption of a volcano in Iceland sent a cloud of ash into UK airspace, halting flights.

  • Michael Schulz April 15, 2010, 8:41 am

    After a couple of days delay the English excerpt translation is now available (on sic.althingi.is). Good to have it all in one place in a somewhat systematic and chronological order.
    Too early to say much after only a first glance. Seems slightly repetitive albeit -agree – quite easy reading.
    “Feels” like incompetence-corruption-criminal intend are key elements. Add to that possibly arrogant attitudes (not by the SIC but main Kreppa actors).
    Can’t help it but also get sense that at the core of it was a variation of the Ponzi scheme mechanism (for which others have been jailed for up to 150 years – n’est-ce pas ?).
    Seems relatively few women are implicated. (Q.E.D.: was and isn’t gender equality a reality in Iceland, against all claims?)
    Trust there will be repercussions in context of the EU/Euro membership process.
    Shall continue to study the report.
    M.
    Ps.: Am seeking to be critically enlightened with re. to the debt situation in Iceland, households, credit cards, communal, etc.. Just in case somebody has a good source.

  • Simon Brooke April 15, 2010, 9:12 am

    All flights grounded here in Scotland as well, all the main airports closed. And COLD on the bike riding into work this morning – I wasn’t expecting it, it’s been very warm lately. I blame you Icelanders! 😉

    Still, if this is your way of getting back at us for being so unreasonable on the IceSave deal, I think that’s pretty much fair.

  • Joerg April 15, 2010, 9:29 am

    I wonder how long the people, who are incriminated by the report, will still consider denial as preferred line of defense. I would expect, that many of them will soon come up with some halfhearted, shallow apology just to start complaining about an ongoing witch-hunt and a demand to leave the past behind and turn to the future. It’s a common pattern. But, so far, nothing really has changed. Björgólfur Thor is still listed as chairman of the Board of Directors at Actavis, Jón Ásgeir Jóhannesson is still dominating Iceland’s retail business among others, and Davið Oddsson is still editor-in-chief of Morgunbladið, just to name some prominent examples – nobody has been convicted and the money is still in “money heaven”. There should be more in terms of compensation than just a swift “sorry”.

    Are there any plans to publish the Black-Report in English as well?

  • Joerg April 15, 2010, 10:34 am

    And as far as the eruption is concerned – we seem to be participating in this event by disruption of air traffic all over Northern Europe. As long as the winds are prevailing westerlies, you seem to be on the lucky side in Reykjavik. But I suppose, this won’t last forever.

    I have booked a flight to Iceland end of April. I’m wondering, if I will get there – and back again.

  • Dankoozy April 15, 2010, 11:01 am

    The Brits deserve that cloud of ash after going around saying Iceland was a terrorist state..

  • Michael Schulz April 15, 2010, 11:06 am

    Yes, too many are holding on to old positions. Others, I hear, are working hard to re-establish themselves. No accountablity. Not even sparks of decency.
    Just wonder how incriminated MPs will argue their own cases in Althingi !?
    Will it all turn into a status quo ante? Would hope all decent Icelanders keep their pots and pans polished and handy.
    M.
    Ps.: Ca. 300 pages of the report are available in English excerpt translations on: http://www.sic.althingi.is

  • Niamh April 15, 2010, 11:08 am

    Dublin airport has just announced that they’re about to close for the day aswell!!

  • Tom Harper April 15, 2010, 11:14 am

    BAA is grounding all nearly all flights to and from the UK starting at 1200 BST.

    I live in Southern England, but still going to look for a bloodred sunset tonight.

    Alda – Glad to hear the evacuees are safe, are their homes still intact?

  • SLM April 15, 2010, 11:41 am

    Thanks for a good post (once again).
    Yes, Björgólfur Thor’s letter in FB yesterday almost made me puke.

    About the new eruption and canceling flights…. If they decide to close down Keflavik Airport, we must look at the positive aspects: Doddsson is not able to come back to Iceland.

    Good luck with your dead lines!