Ein a big landslide the inhabitants of a small place in the south of Norway was surprised at nighttime and hit several buildings. At least 21 people were missing on Wednesday. According to the police, only twelve missing persons were searched for at a later date – but there were no reports of deaths until early afternoon.
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. Search and rescue should continue overnight.
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 discussions with 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.
“I woke up because the house was shaking”
“This is one of the biggest landslides in recent years,” said Torild Hofshagen from the Norwegian Water and Energy Authority. In his estimation, the cause could be natural or mining.
According to media reports, the police were alerted around 4 a.m. and initiated 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.” 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.