Icelandic Red Cross provides relief and psychosocial support for traumatised earthquake victims

21. apr. 2010

Some 60 volunteers and staff of the Icelandic Red Cross have been working around the clock since the second eruption of the volcano Eyjafjallajökull glacier took place on 14 April.  Red Cross volunteers are providing food for the affected farming population living in the area right under the volcanic glacier, as well as being in charge of counselling and giving psychosocial support.

Some 100 people are living in the area most affected by heavy ash fall, threatening the livelihood of some 50-60 farms literally swallowed by an ash cloud for three consecutive days.  The psychological state of the population remains very sensitive as many fear that there will be no basis for farming or grazing in the area this year, and possibly for the near future.

The Red Cross together with the authorities is working on setting up service centres in the affected areas to provide psychosocial support, general information on insurance issues, and health advice for people and livestock alike. Red Cross volunteers are providing food twice a day in Heimaland, a community centre which also serves as a Red Cross evacuation point.  This has been very much appreciated as most people have not been able to stock up on food.  Members of the Icelandic Red Cross psychosocial support team and local health authorities have also been providing counselling in Heimaland since Sunday.

Some 700 people living in the disaster zone have been evacuated from the disaster zone three times in the past month.  When Eyjafjallajökull glacier erupted for the second time, people had to flee their homes in the middle of the night due to predictions of flash floods. The main bridge on Higway 1 was spared by digging through the road in 4 places and channelling the flood water through there.  A second wave of flash floods hit the next day, but the damages was limited, and the evacuation only lasted for some 5 hours. 

The Icelandic Red Cross has a distinctive role within the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management.  In a state of emergency, the Red Cross is responsible for setting up evacuation and registration centres, and providing mass relief and psychosocial support. The Red Cross 24 hour helpline is activated as an emergency information hotline for registration and friends and relatives looking for their loved ones.  The Red Cross also has representatives based in the Emergency Management and Coordination Centre.

Consultations with Tammam Aloudat, the Federation's senior officer for emergency health, resulted in fast action to provide information to inhabitants of southern Iceland on health hazards of volcanic ash. Tammam was able to locate a guide published by the International Volcanic Health Hazard Network, which was swiftly translated into Icelandic, printed and distributed in the affected area. The global Red Cross Red Crescent network thus demonstrated its capacity to come through in a criss and this was duly noted by the various response agencies gathered at Iceland's Emergency Management and coordination Centre.