The Landslide Project

Just as people were preparing for a joyful holiday season after a challenging year, heavy rain began to fall over the town of Seyðisfjörður. From the 14 to the 18 December 2020, 569 mm of precipitation fell over the village, breaking a record as the heaviest rainfall ever measured over a five-day period in Iceland. The accumulation of water on the plateaus and in the waterways weakened the mountain slopes, causing them to become unstable. On 15 December, the first mudslide occurred above a residential area and evacuations were ordered in several parts of town. After four more days of intense rain, the civil protection alert progressed from a crisis level to an emergency level. It was an ominous sign when flooding swept one house from its foundations and carried it off towards the gas station, collapsing under the weight of the rain and darkness. Rescue squads and relief units had already arrived to assist, and locals remained hopeful that the rain might stop before Christmas. Nobody could truly imagine what was still to come.

 

The immense landslide that fell on 18 December was the largest landslide to occur in an inhabited area of Iceland, destroying thirteen buildings and a museum, as well as burying a significant part of the town. Within hours, the entire village was evacuated with a procession of cars carrying shaken inhabitants across the mountain heath, along the only road out of Seyðisfjörður. At that point, nobody knew whether everyone had been accounted for. Yet miraculously, nobody had died in the landslide.

 

Following this shocking occurrence and the touching stories of the relief efforts, Ströndin Studio, a photographic center based in Seyðisfjörður, took up the idea of following up on people’s stories of the events and recovery. With support from the Seyðisfjörður Incentive Fund, a portrait series was commission by photographers Katja Goljat and Matjaž Rušt, who captured the after-effects of this natural disaster, not only on the landscape, but also on the people who suffered from it.

 

The outcome of this project is compiled on this webpage as an online exhibition to commemorate the landslides of December 2020, and to pay tribute to the people of Seyðisfjörður.

 

Special thanks to:

Apolline Fjara and Hallur Á Hálvmørk Joensen for generously hosting the artists.

Michelle Auer and Ingunn Snædal for proofreading and translation.

Seyðisfjörður Incentive Fund (Hvatasjóður Seyðisfjarðar) for financial support.

 

Most of all, we would like to thank the dear people of Seyðisfjörður who bravely shared their stories.