‘It is a catastrophe’: Landslide in southern Norway sweeps buildings away

Oslo: Ten people were injured, one of them critically, and 11 were classified as missing after a landslide in southern Norway swept away more than a dozen buildings in the early hours of Wednesday, local time, police said.

The landslide struck a residential area in the municipality of Gjerdrum, about 30 km north of the capital Oslo. Police said more than 900 people had been evacuated from the area.

A car is stopped at the edge of a cliff after a landslide occurred in a residential area in Ask, near Oslo.Credit:AP

Rescue workers continued to search the area for children and adults who were feared to have been caught in mud and debris, police said.

"We are quite certain that there are people in the affected area, but we don't know if all 11 are there or if the number is smaller," police spokesman Roger Pettersen told a news conference.

"We're still searching for survivors," he said.

Photos of the site showed a large crater with destroyed buildings at the bottom of it. Other buildings hung on the edges of the crater, TV footage showed. Two more houses collapsed into the crater on Wednesday afternoon, local time, broadcaster NRK reported.

The scene after a landslide occurred in a residential area near Oslo.Credit:AP

Norway's King Harald said the landslide had made a deep impression on him.

"My thoughts are with all those who are affected, injured or have lost their homes and those who now live in fear and uncertainty of the full extent of the catastrophe," the 83-year-old monarch said in a statement released by the royal palace.

A person is lowered from a rescue helicopter near the site where the landslide hit a residential area in Norway.Credit:AP

Local residents spoke of their experience.

"There were two massive tremors that lasted for a long while and I assumed it was snow being cleared or something like that," Oeystein Gjerdrum, 68, told NRK.

"Then the power suddenly went out, and a neighbour came to the door and said we needed to evacuate, so I woke up my three grandchildren and told them to get dressed quickly."

The damage after a landslide hit a residential area in the municipality of Gjerdrum, north of Oslo.Credit:AP

Masses of earth are still moving in what has been one of the largest clay slides in recent Norwegian history, Toril Hofshagen, the regional head of the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate, told a news conference.

Alexandra Balaton, who lives in Gjerdrum, was evacuated with her husband, their teenage daughter and their dog. She said she had been headed to her job at a grocery store when she encountered a road "either covered or replaced by dirt." She drove home and was ordered to pack up in five minutes and evacuate to a hotel.

"The whole site is extremely unstable," she said. "The landslides are ongoing, so they have to carefully assess every move they make."

Norway's military was assisting with the rescue operation, according to police. Norwegian People's Aid, a humanitarian organisation, said it had sent nine ambulances and 40 crew members. And dozens of volunteers with the Norwegian Red Cross provided vehicles, including 20 ambulances, and helped with the evacuations.

Geir Fjellheim, manager of Quality Hotel Olavsgaard, said that about 300 people who had been evacuated from Ask were staying at the hotel. He said he had been told by police not to provide further details.

Landslides in Norway are relatively rare, but in June, a landslide in the northern part of the country swept at least eight buildings into the sea, causing significant damage but no injuries.

Balaton said she was heartened by the rescue effort and how the community had come together with offers of donated clothes and invitations to celebrate New Year's Eve. "The generosity shown right now is very heart-warming," she said. "We are very lucky to live in a place where people come together in a moment of crisis."

Reuters, New York Times

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