Flood disaster moving south

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SEE NRK VIDEO: As state officials declared disaster areas in severely flooded portions of southern Norway, attention was turning to the new threats posed by rapidly rising water levels along the Glomma River and where it flows into the large lake east of Oslo called Øyeren. Landslides, meanwhile, were causing more damage from Telemark in the west to Hedmark in the east.

In Fetsund, emergency crews and local government officials were bracing for a deluge. Swollen creeks and rivers were pouring into Øyeren and experts from Norway’s waterways directorate NVE were predicting its level to rise through the weekend. “We’re emptying our cellars now,” one local resident told newspaper Dagsavisen.

Further north along the Glomma River, the town of Rena that’s best known as the starting point for the annual Birkebeiner races was largely under water. The Glomma meets the Rena River at Rena in the eastern valley of Østerdalen and the massive amounts of rainwater and snowmelt were too much for the rivers to handle.

See video from Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) of the flooding in Østerdalen here:


The main highway through Østerdalen, Riksvei 3, was closed and would remained closed through the weekend, announced state highway officials on Friday. Train service would also remain disrupted.

The main E6 highway through the parallel valley of Gudbrandsdalen to the west that’s just over the mountains from Østerdalen was also due to remain closed. That prompted police and highway officials to urge Norwegians to drop any plans for weekend trips to the thousands of holiday homes that dot the area. Many would be impossible to reach given the flood damage.

More than 500 persons remained under evacuation orders on Friday, when saturated mountainsides set off new threats of landslides all over southern Norway. In Ringebu in Gudbrandsdalen, 12 more persons were evacuated when a landslide crashed down at Skjeggestad and took with it power lines and at least two sheep out grazing.

Farther north, in the hardest-hit area around Kvam, more than 200 homeowners were evacuated and several homes destroyed. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg toured the area Thursday evening along with other government officials and declared Kvam a disaster area.

“It makes a huge impression to meet the people who have been hit so hard,” Stoltenberg told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). He and fellow ministers Ola Borten Moe and Grete Faremo also visited areas in Buskerud, Hedmark and Oppland counties, and Stoltenberg, of the Labour Party, said local residents need to brace for the prospects of more extreme weather and flooding in the years ahead.

Moe, of the rural-oriented Center Party, seemed to dismiss rising criticism, though, over local residents’ determination to continue living in areas that are subject to flooding. “If we can’t build in areas where there may be major floods every 50 or 100 years, there aren’t many areas in Norway where it would be possible to live,” Moe said. That suggests he’s gearing for a fight with insurance companies and other authorities who believe it’s irresponsible to allow re-building in flood zones. Many of the homes destroyed at Kvam this week had just been rebuilt after a flood in the same area two years ago.

Authorities were otherwise dealing mostly with the current crises at hand, and were encouraged that floodwaters seemed to be cresting in Gudbrandsdalen and Østerdalen on Friday. Waters further downstream were expected to keep rising into early next week.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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