Dramatic fire hits housing complex

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SEE VIDEO FROM NRK: Fire swept through the top floor of a large residential complex in downtown Oslo Saturday night, forcing the evacuation of 83 persons and severely damaging if not destroying many of their homes. The dramatic blaze also sparked traffic chaos in one of the most congested areas of the Norwegian capital.

See video from Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) of the fire-fighting efforts and scenes from street-level. The story continues under the video box.

It took firefighters more than two hours to get the fire in the busy Grønland district under control and they were still dealing with the aftermath Sunday morning. Emergency workers didn’t think it would blaze up again, but parts of the gutted roof on the 12-story building continued to fall down to the ground and the entire area remained cordoned off.

Residents of the building were still under evacuation orders Sunday morning but some were allowed to return to their homes on lower floors by midday.

The fire broke out about 10pm Saturday and gutted the top floor of one of the buildings  in the large residential condominium and apartment complex. The complex, originally known as Grønlands Leir, was part of a major urban renewal project in the late 1980s and early 1990s and thus was built in accordance with modern fire safety regulations. Firefighters said that’s what helped keep the fire from spreading as it might have in older buildings.

It could be seen from many parts of the city but mostly destroyed only storage rooms, terraces and technical equipment on the top floor. Oslo Fire Chief Kjetil Bratlie told NRK that some of the residential units on the 11th floor of the building at Grønland 24 also suffered major damage, but other units lower in the building were spared.

“This building is made with concrete and its floors are also divided by concrete, so the spread of the fire was minimal,” Bratlie told NRK.

A total of 83 persons were evacuated to the nearby Hotel Plaza. Operations leader Even Jørstad of the Oslo Police District told NRK that residents of the buildings at Grønland 20 and 28 were allowed to return home late Sunday morning as were residents of Grønland 27 with units from the 7th floor and down. None of the residents of Grønland 24, however, were being allowed back into the building on Sunday.

No one was reported injured or missing, even though the building is located just next to the busy Grønland subway station and on a busy street full or bars, restaurants and shops that often remain open late in the evenings.

Jørstad said it was too early to determine the cause of the blaze but a probe would get underway as soon as the area where it began was considered safe for investigators to enter.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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