Three cars caught under an avalanche

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Emergency crews saved the lives Thursday morning of the occupants of three cars that were buried under snow and ice after an avalanche crashed down on the E8 highway at Lavangsdalen in Troms County, Northern Norway. More snow and wind were also causing problems on the main highways over the mountains of Southern Norway.

Police evacuated the entire valley of Lavangsdalen because of the sudden avalanche danger. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that emergency crews determined that no other cars were caught in the avalanche that occurred in an area that’s just a 30-minute ride from downtown Tromsø.

‘Really scared’
Odd Ivar Chruickshank told NRK he was on his way to Tromsø, driving behind a minibus but keeping his distance because of snow on the road and poor visibility. Suddenly he saw and heard snow roaring towards him from the right, and his car was badly shaken.

“I realized it was an avalanche, and was really scared the window glass would shatter on the right side of the car and that snow would pour in,” he told NRK. He said it “all happened very fast.” He thinks around 10 to 15 seconds passed before everything became very quiet, and dark.

“I managed after a while to get over the shock and look for my phone, so I could call for help,” Chruickshank said. “It was completely dark inside the car and I couldn’t find it. I normally set it on the console, but the car was shaken so much that the phone was gone. Then I began to panic a bit.”

Major emergency response
There was a major emergency response, however, also including volunteers. Search and rescue crews found his car, and the digging began. The two other cars weren’t completely buried, but their occupants, like Chruickshank, were trapped inside them. Steinar Gudmundsen, operations leader for the Troms Police District, told NRK that there were no reports of injuries and all six people inside the three cars were eventually freed.

Police estimated the dump from the avalanche to be about 200 meters wide and two meters deep. The highway was closed indefinitely with a detour set up via County Road 294, but it can only handle passenger vehicles, not trucks. That meant all heavy transport into Tromsø was halted until the highway could be cleared and the danger of more avalanches eased.

To see NRK’s photos from the scene, click here (external link).

Meanwhile, more snow and stormy weather was causing problems on two major highways over the mountains of Southern Norway. Two large trailer-trucks lost control and jack-knifed on the E134 highway east of Røldal Thursday morning, blocking the thoroughfare. It didn’t reopen until shortly after noon, with manual traffic controls.

Another six trucks got stuck in the snow on the E16 highway at Vinjedalen in Voss, blocking it as well. Emergency crews finally manged to reopen one of the E16’s lanes by early afternoon. “It’s snowing heavily, that explains all the problems,” Eirik Rystad Skånøy of the state highway department told NRK.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund