Icelandic Red Cross responds to volcanic eruption

The Icelandic Red Cross responded swiftly when a volcano in Eyjafjallajokull glacier, in the south of the country, erupted just before midnight on Saturday 20 March. More than 40 volunteers and staff from Red Cross branches in Southern Iceland went into action upon receiving a text message half an hour later. Immediately activating a well-prepared emergency response plan, they opened three shelters and registration points to receive 600 people evacuated from the danger zone at Vik, Hvollsvellir and Hellir.

The volcanic eruption came by surprise, with no advance warning as scientists had anticipated. However, a state of alert had been declared two weeks earlier due to frequent earthquakes and indications of volcanic activity in the area, so communities in the South were well prepared and quick to leap into action.

The Icelandic Red Cross registered all 600 inhabitants evacuated from the vicinity of the volcano in a matter of only two hours. The Red Cross provided some 120 people with accommodation for the night, as well as food and psychosocial support.

The Icelandic Red Cross 24 hour helpline was activated immediately as emergency information phone to provide worried relatives and friends with news of their loved ones living in the evacuated area. The Red Cross also provided English and Polish translators to provide information for tourists and immigrants living in Southern Iceland.