Ice hurts Opera House, and people

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Winter is finally releasing its grip on Oslo, but as the ice melts, new signs of its ferocity are emerging. Ice on the Oslo Fjord has done damage to the city’s still-new landmark Opera House, and ice on rooftops is posing a constant threat to anyone walking down city streets.

Some of the damage is visible near the main entrance to the Opera house. PHOTO: Views and News

Some of the damage is visible near the main entrance to the Opera House. PHOTO: Views and News

The Opera House slopes into the fjord on the waterfront at Bjørvika (photo), and this year’s long and surprisingly cold winter made the fjord freeze over in many places along the coast. Now, as the ice recedes, several of the granite blocks making up the Opera House’s facade have receded with it.

They apparently were pried loose by the force of the ice and currents during the winter, and since have fallen into the water. Around 20 of the granite blocks along the water’s edge are now missing, or hanging precariously off the side of the otherwise graceful structure.

State building officials responsible for the Opera House’s construction told reporters this week that they became aware of the problem shortly after the building was completed in 2008. “This winter has been especially harsh, though, and that’s why so many blocks have fallen off,” Hege Njaa Rygh of state agency Statsbygg told newspaper Aftenposten.

It’s mostly a cosmetic problem but the blocks must be replaced, at an estimated cost of NOK 200,000.

Threat from above
Melting ice and snow have also posed a threat in cities and towns all over Norway, as a sudden and sustained rise in temperatures is sending blocks of heavy old snow and ice catapulting off rooftops.

One 24-year-old man remained in critical condition at Ullevål Hospital on Thursday, after being hit on the head by a clump of ice that crashed down onto a street in Oslo’s Frogner district earlier this week. Another woman was also injured by ice that slid off a building at Majorstuen in Oslo.

Building owners are responsible for keeping their rooftops and gutters free of snow and ice, but it’s not easy to see whether a looming peril exists or to hire crews and lifts to tackle it.

City officials are nonetheless fining building owners for failing to clear their rooftops, to drive home the serious nature of the threat. Signs and flags outside the buildings warning of what’s called takras aren’t enough to absolve building owners of responsibility, officials say.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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