Widespread flooding also halted trains

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UPDATED: Flooding from the torrential rain that poured down over much of southern Norway this week forced the closure of both major rail lines that connect Oslo with Bergen and Kristiansand. Officials at state railroad Jernbaneverket weren’t sure Thursday morning when either Bergensbanen or Sørlandsbanen could reopen.

The heavy rain triggered a landslide during the night on state highway RV7 between Ørgenvika and Gulsvik in the valley of Hallingdal in Buskerud County. The slide has also blocked tracks just east of Gulsvik.

Other trains including the heavily used commuter line through Spikkestad and Asker west of Oslo were also halted and officials at state railway NSB said they were having trouble finding enough buses to provide alternative transportation. Railroad crews were struggling with washed out tracks and power failures caused by what NSB called “the extreme weather.”

Frightening
The rains that hammered southern Norway almost with no let-up since Tuesday morning have caused major flooding, tens of millions of kroner in damage and some frightening incidents. In Tønsberg, for example, a woman had to be rescued out the window of her car Wednesday morning after it was swept off a city street and quickly submerged.

Witness and rescuer Arvid Krossøy told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that the woman was driving behind a truck but the rising floodwaters were too deep for her car. “The force of the water swept her car off the side of the road,” he said after he and the driver of the truck helped pull her out of the car through the window on the driver’s side. Within minutes, her entire car was under the water that Krossøy said was nearly up to his shoulders.

Vikersund submerged
In Vikersund, police had to block off the center of the town on the west side of the Tyrifjord after rising river water combined with all the rain flooded the town. Efforts were made to keep the water from flooding homes and businesses but its force broke down the doors of a local ICA grocery store and the water gushed in. NRK had a camera crew inside the store to report on the danger of flooding and had to save themselves along with their coverage (external link to NRK’s video and photos, with text in Norwegian). They reported that grocery items like packages of shrimp salad and cans of beer quickly started floating around the store.

Vikersund emergency crews were out in force and residents were told to stay home and listen to the radio as officials scrambled to get an overview over the damage. State highway RV35 was closed by the flooding and the train line Randsfjordbanen was also blocked after the gravel under the rails washed out.

Cellars flooded, toilets backed up
The counties of Telemark, Vestfold and Buskerud were hit hard on Wednesday, but Oslo, Akershus and Østfold were also coping with a deluge after incessant rain all through the night. In Lørenskog, emergency crews were searching for missing cars believed to be lying under the floodwaters. At Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen, one of the runways had to be closed Wednesday afternoon because there was too much water on it.

Residents from Telemark in the west to Østfold in the east woke up to flooded cellars and one man was faced with water gushing out of his basement toilet. A day care center along the Aker River in Oslo had to be evacuated because of flooding.

Oslo-Kristiansand train trouble
On Wednesday evening, officials at state railway NSB announced that the train line between Oslo and Kristiansand, Sørlandsbanen, would be closed at least through Thursday because of flooded tracks. Flooding was worst at Tyristrand in Buskerud and the section from Darbu to Drangedal was also hard hit. NSB said it would set up alternate bus routes until the train line could be cleared, fortified and reopened.

State meteorologists, who had issued warnings of the bad weather, predicted that winds would die down later on Wednesday but that the rain would continue into Thursday.

State highway officials were warning motorists to drive with extreme caution beause of fears of waterplaning. Several serious accidents were reported Wednesday morning around Oslo, including a fatal accident north of the capital on state highway RV4 between Harestua and Grua.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund