05 June 2008

Auka Fréttir (Additional News)

Just a few additional bits of information about members of the Church in Iceland and how the "jarðskjálfti" affected them. This is from Lee Wohlgemuth in an email he sent me yesterday from Iceland where he and his wife are serving as a senior missionary couple.

"All of us are fine. A number of local people were injured and had to go to the hospital, and a few members also sustained some minor injuries. The epicenter of the quake was near Selfoss, about 40 miles from where we live in Reykajvik. We have missionaries and members in Selfoss, and many members in Hveragerði, a small town about 9 miles from Selfoss. The mountain between Selfoss and Hveragerði is where the quake was centered. We had driven by the area about 1/2 hour before the quake occurred, as we were returning to Reykajvik from Selfoss.

The quake was, of course, felt in Reykjavik and in surrounding areas, but the damage was worst in Hveragerði and Selfoss. Our chapel, a rented hall in a store building in Selfoss, was also slightly damaged, and we have some small repairs to make. Our members in the area were harder hit in their homes. The Selfoss Elders Quorum President, Jóhann, who lives in Hveragerði, lost about everything in his kitchen and dining room. Everything was dumped onto the floor and is broken. The house itself sustained damage, and the walls are not at right angles any more! During some of the aftershocks, Jóhann could see the walls swaying and moving a bit, then settling a bit further off square. A nearby neighbor, Sveinbjörg, also lost almost all of her dishes and crockery and china, plus the cabinets all came off the walls. Sveinbjörg is the lady who translated the Book of Mormon into Icelandic in 1981. Her house is a mess.

Other members in Hveragerði and Selfoss had some significant losses, but not as bad as Jóhann and Sveinbjörg. They all have their miracle stories, of things that were spared, and they are all grateful that everyone got through it as well as they did. They have had a very healthy attitude, as they have simply cleaned up, thrown away the broken items, and moved on. Stoic. And faithful.

There is a little remaining road damage in the quake area. The surrounding area is well known for the hot geysirs which are everywhere. They are all steaming as usual. They seem to be even more active than normal, so you never know when the ground will open up again. The whole countryside is broken up lava rock from previous eruptions, and nothing is very stable.

You may be interested to know that the mountain Hekla erupts about every ten years. Hekla is about 40 miles from the latest quake area, further away from Reykjavik. There is talk that Hekla will spew lava again, perhaps earlier than its expected next eruption in 2010 or 2011. Of course, the Elders are praying that it will blow while we are here, so we can see it. The Relief Society President of the Selfoss branch lives near Hekla, and has a good view of it from her living room window. We always joke that we´ll all come to her house when Hekla blows again, and eat popcorn while we watch the eruption in comfort. Until we have to run! Hekla erupted the last time in 2001, and ash darkened the sky and fell in Reykjavik at that time. We drove up near Hekla a few days ago, just to look."

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