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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Floodwaters may rise all week long

What started as flooding from heavy rains and melting snow turned into a deluge through the weekend and the floodwaters haven’t crested yet in southern and eastern Norway. The main train line between Oslo and Trondheim, Dovrebanen, remained closed and it was raining again Tuesday morning.

Railroad officials told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that the tracks between Lillehammer and Dombås needed repairs in as many as 35 places after they were damaged in the flooding that began Friday morning. Engineers had no idea when the tracks would be dry enough and safe enough for state railway NSB to resume service.

“The damage is widespread and repairs are being carried out both by railroad workers and several local contractors,” Harry Korslund of state railroad Jernbaneverket told NRK. “The situation is highly unclear.”

Some trains back in service
Trains on Raumabanen from Dombås north to Åndalsnes were running again on Tuesday after a closed stretch between Dombås and Bjorli could reopen after flooding. The line called Rørosbanen through the eastern valley of Østerdalen, also hard-hit by flooding, was also running as normal and local roads had re-opened as well.

But in the valley of Gudbrandsdalen and in the area directly south, around Norway’s largest lake, Mjøsa, flooding was severe and damage heavy. Government officials set up crisis operations, around 200 homes were evacuated and damage estimates were rising into the hundreds of millions of kroner.

Several campgrounds along the river Lågen were all but washed away, as was inventory at a large sawmill at Fåvang. Engineers were also worried about more mud- and rockslides because adjacent hillsides and riverfront properties were saturated.

The main E6 highway through Gudbrandsdalen remained closed between Øyer, just north of Lillehammer, and Frya, north of Ringebu. Geologists couldn’t say when it could reopen, also because of safety concerns caused by saturation even after floodwaters recede.

The flood, the worst since 1995, was moving south, with cities like Hamar and Gjøvik on each side of Lake Mjøsa experiencing high and rising water levels on Tuesday. The flood turned fatal on Monday when an 82-year-old man near Gausdal was found drowned on his property.

Government officials were promising disaster funding for repairs, and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg visited flood victims on Monday. Reports were emerging that highway officials were conceding that the E6 highway should have been built higher long the river than it is. Political quarrels have gone on over its inadequacy for years.

One bright spot of the recent heavy rains was that mountain reservoirs are now full, meaning lower electricity rates after record-high energy bills earlier this year.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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