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Yesterday a 47 year old German woman was swept to the sea at Kirkjufjara beach in South Iceland. The tragic accident took place just before one in the afternoon. The woman was travelling with her family, husband and two children, when a wave crashed in, knocking all four off their feet. The husband and children managed to make it to safety, but the woman was swept to the sea. She was found an hour later, and airlifted to Reykjavík, but was pronounced dead upon arrival.
The video below, shot by a local photographer, Þórir Kjartansson, who shared it to Facebook, shows conditions at Kirkjufjara beach. Þórir points out that the video also shows how oblivious travellers are when it comes to the danger posed by the ocean. The two children in the video were running around, without supervision, which made him extremely uneasy as the waves can be very unpredictable.
The video ends suddenly when Þórir thought one of the children was about to be knocked down by the waves. He ran off to ensure the child was safe. This is a scene he claims is all too common at the black sand beaches of South Iceland.
Þórir shot a second video of the waves at Dyrhólaey peninsula which shows conditions at the time of the accident.
Kirkjufjara beach is the west edge of Reynisfjara beach, closest to Dyrhóley peninsula. This is the second death at the beach in the past 12 months, and the third in 10 years. On February 10 2016 a 40 year old Chinese man was swept to sea at the east edge of Reynisfjara. Police responded to the accident by adding new, larger warning signs. However, this does not seem to be enough.
The waves are dangerous and unpredictable
One of the reasons for the accidents is that the waves are unpredictable. Even when the waves seem rather small and tame, one in 10, 15 or 20 waves can be far larger, crashing further up the beach than any of the previous waves. These monster waves can then knock people down and the undercurrent then pull them back out to sea. Once in the ocean it is nearly impossible to get back on your feet or to swim to safety. The experience of being stuck in the surf has been described as being inside a washing machine: You lose any sense of what direction is up or down or what direction the beach is.
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