Tragedy on the tundra of Finnmark

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UPDATED: Nine young Norwegians who had set off on a snow-scooter tour from a holiday area around Skaidi in Finnmark got lost in the severe storm that hammered northern Norway on Thursday. Search and rescue crews found one of them dead during the night and two were still missing Friday morning. They were later found dead as well, while six survived the ordeal.

Members of the snow-scooter group, all from the northern city of Hammerfest and aged 18 to 25, had called police themselves for help late Thursday morning. They reported that they had run into problems in the blinding storm and were disoriented.

A major search was launched immediately, involving personnel from the military, Red Cross, Civil Defense and police, reported newspaper Aftenposten. The bad weather made search efforts difficult, however, and rescue crews never heard any more from any of them.

None of the nine members on the tour was prepared for spending a night out on the tundra, with howling winds, freezing temperatures and snowdrifts. Visibility was only around two to three meters in the area, according to police.

The weather eased early Friday and search efforts were concentrated on the valley known as Stabbursdalen in Porsanger, although it was highly uncertain where the nine had driven. All had been on winter holiday and they carried mobile phones, but the storm knocked out several base stations for communications.

Rescue crews reported finding six persons alive Friday morning. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that all were being taken to hospital in Hammerfest.

One 18-year-old man, however, was found dead and two remained missing. By mid-day, searchers had found the bodies of two more near their snow-scooter about four kilometers from Oterberget in Porsanger. A Sea King helicopter spotted them but by the time doctors reached them, they were already dead.

The six survivors were described as being in stable condition after suffering hypothermia and possible frost bite. A crisis center was set up in Hammerfest, to assist survivors and their families.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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