Landslide danger as high as the floods

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Stunned residents of Norway’s southern-most counties were warned this week that the danger of landslides was as high as the floodwaters that have swamped coastal and inland areas. Many faced utter devastation of their homes and businesses, while so many roads are washed out that highway officials lost track of them all.

One of the many buildings innundated by flooding along the Otra River near Mosby, just north of Kristiansand. PHOTO: NVE/Svein Arne Jerstad

“We don’t have a home any longer,” Lena Juul matter-of-factly told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) after her family’s house was surrounded by water two meters high on all sides. She’s among the hardest-hit residents of Drangsholt in Tveit, a small community northeast of Kristiansand that has been utterly inundated by the Tovdals River.

“The water is high up along all the walls and rats are floating around and swimming in our house,” Juul continued. “It’s indescribable.” With the help of neighbours, she was able to save some items from the house, and bring the family’s horse up to higher ground. Her neighbourhood was only reachable by boat on Monday and Tuesday.

Similar rescue operations took place from Jæren, Farsund and Lista in the southwest, where local farmers struggled to save sheep from drowning in innundated fields, to Lindesnes on the southern tip of Norway and eastwards from Kristiansand. Valley areas heading up towards the mountains were also hit hard, as was Kristiansand itself. Both the Tovdals- and Otra rivers rushed out of control through Kristiansand towards the sea, destroying buildings, bridges, marinas and homes along the way.

More flooding at Marnadal, in the hills above Norway’s southern coast. PHOTO: NVE/Svein Arne Jerstad

Officials at Norway’s waterways and energy directorate NVE kept the flood danger at its highest level heading into Tuesday, while city officials warned of the danger of land- and mudslides along local hillsides and riverbanks. More rain was also in the forecast, after the area was pounded by more than 200 millimeters of rain through the weekend and on Monday. Another 40 to 70 millimeters were expected Tuesday before the destructive weather system was due to move east towards Sweden.

Around 50 roads and highways were closed Monday morning, rising to 70 later in the day before officials at the highway department Statens vegvesen lost track. Sørlandsbanen, the main train line through the area, was closed indefinitely because of flooded tracks and some that were washed out.

“It’s difficult to maintain an overview when the situation is so extreme,” Anniken Island of the highway department’s traffic operations center for Southern Norway told news bureau NTB.

Residents of Kvam in Sokndal and Lyngdal were also among those evacuated in what NVE described as the most severe flooding since records started being kept in 1890. “We have never seen the water levels we’re seeing now,” said Erik Holm Kvist, a meteorologist for NVE. Several NVE officials pointed to climate change, as Norway’s weather becomes warmer, wetter and wilder.

The damage piling up in the Agder counties along with Telemark and Rogaland was estimated to run into the hundreds of millions of kroner. One factory manufacturing wooden flooring literally had water rushing through its buildngs.  Police were still urging residents against trying to drive and especially not to risk driving into any large masses of water. Several cars were swept away in Monday’s flooding, but there were no fatalities.

To see NRK’s photos and video from a helicopter flying over the areas, click here.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund