Most slide evacuees still can’t return

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UPDATED: Nearly 20 persons remained under evacuation orders on Tuesday, after geologists couldn’t declare that landslides on their properties had stopped sliding. Two families were allowed to return to their homes, but the others stayed at a hotel in Trondheim.

Police only allowed the rest of the evacuees brief visits to their homes, under escort, to pick up personal items. Meanwhile, farmers in the area were dealing with the loss of lots of their land, and probably won’t be able to even try recovering it for another year.

More than 50 persons were evacuated from their homes on Sunday when a large landslide ripped through the rural area outside Trondheim. It was a brutal start to the New Year, following a string of storms that also forced evacuations in western Norway earlier in the week. The bad news was that more storms were on the way.

Geologists said it was still too early to determine exactly what caused the landslide at Byneset in Trøndelag, which extended over around half-a-kilometer of farmland. One geologist told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that the ground in the area was characterized by unstable clay and that the stormy weather of the past week may have contributed to the landslide.

Catastrophe alarm
It set off full catastrophe alarms Sunday morning but by the end of the day, no homes had been destroyed and no lives lost. The evacuations to the Royal Garden Hotel in Trondheim were made because of the unstable groundmass.

“We’re not at all certain that the slide is over,” Kari Øvrelid of the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) told NRK. “We need to keep monitoring this.” By Monday afternoon, NVE officials still couldn’t declare the slide over. There was only slight hope evacuees could return to their homes on Tuesday.

She said the danger of more landslides had been reduced, but 22 persons remained under evacuation orders Sunday night. Police, civil defense personnel, geologists and local government officials were using special equipment to monitor ground movement in the darkness. There were also concerns that the huge volumes of earth would clog local creeks and set off flooding.

Many still lack power
The latest emergency outside Trondheim followed a week of severe storm damage that climaxed with the hurricane known as Dagmar that swept through western and north-central Norway and also hit Trondheim hard. Farther to the west, in Stryn, some families remained without power or telephone connections for the seventh day in a row.

“This is really like being back in the good old days,” Anne Sølvi Sande Hoem told NRK. She and her three children haven’t had electricity since Christmas Day, but she considers herself lucky. The house next door in Lodalen was all but destroyed in the hurricane.

Sande Hoem said the long-term power outage created practical challenges, not least with three small children in the house. “Things you take for granted, like washing clothes in the washing machine or having an internet connection, suddenly disappear,” she said. A generator has helped save food in the freezer and refrigerator, and wood-burning stoves are keeping the house warm. As in most Norwegian homes at this time of year, they also had lots of candles on hand.

More storms coming
Stryn Energi was hoping to restore power in the area by Tuesday. Justice Minister Grete Faremo, in charge of emergency response in Norway, toured the hardest hit areas last week and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg planned a visit early this week, with state aid on the way.

Around 600 homes in western Norway (Vestlandet) also remained without land-based telephone service because of storm damage. Mobile phone service also remained disrupted in the counties of Sogn og Fjordane, Møre og Romsdal, and Sør-Trøndelag because of storm damage to as many as 20 base stations.

Meanwhile, officials were bracing for even more severe weather this week. New storms that hit on Thursday and Friday halted ferry traffic once again along with the long-distance service between Norway and Denmark. Waves were estimated at nine-meters high off the coast of Rogaland. Storm damage was estimated at half-a-billion kroner (USD 85 million) by Friday.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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