Wednesday December 30th 2020
12 people still missing
Norway: landslide tears houses into abyss
For the residents of a village in the south of Norway, the year ends with a nightmare: in the middle of the night, mud and earth begin to slide and drag their houses into the depths. The village near the capital Oslo is partially evacuated and injured people are taken to hospital.
A large landslide surprised the inhabitants of a small town in the south of Norway at nighttime and hit several buildings. According to the police, 12 people were missing on Wednesday evening – there were no reports of confirmed deaths by then. At least ten people were injured in the early morning departure in Ask – about 40 kilometers northwest of the capital Oslo – as the police said. Six of them were taken to hospitals, said operations manager Roger Pettersen. More than 700 residents were taken to safety as a precaution.
Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Justice Minister Monica Maeland traveled to Ask to get an idea of the local situation. “I agree with the police that this is a disaster,” said Solberg after talking to the operations management. The landslide extended over a length of 700 meters and a width of 300 meters. The exact cause of the departure was not initially clear. But it could be related to the local soil type, it said. This is Quickton, a water-rich structure that is unstable. There are hills in the Ask area but no high mountains. It had rained a lot there recently.
“This is one of the biggest landslides in recent years,” said Torild Hofshagen from the Norwegian authority for water and energy. In his estimation, the cause could be natural or mining.
“I woke up because the house was shaking”
According to media reports, the police had been alerted around 4 a.m. and launched a major rescue operation that also included the Red Cross. Helicopters were used to bring people from the affected areas. At first the darkness made the rescue work more difficult, later there was snowfall. Geologists also arrived in the town of 5,000. The missing lived in the affected area, but they could also have been outside at the time of the landslide, said Pettersen. Olav Gjerdingen’s house is only 150 meters from the place where the landslide occurred. He and his wife were woken up by the police, he reported to the state broadcaster NRK.
“I woke up because the house was shaking,” said another man who was also able to get to safety. “At first I thought it was a grader.” But then the power went out, neighbors stormed in and reported about the landslide. According to Prime Minister Solberg, the rescue and clean-up work could still take several days.