Avalanche and rockslide danger rises

Bookmark and Share

Geologists were putting out new warnings of avalanches and rockslides in mountainous areas this week, as the spring thaw creates more hazards. Nine persons were caught in an avalanche in Hemsedal on Thursday, while a key highway outside Bergen was deemed highly dangerous.

The steep mountains bordering the stretch of the E16 highway between Dale and Arna, outside Bergen, were highly unstable this week and already have sent boulders crashing down on the road below. Portions remained closed on Friday because of the slide danger, while other areas were considered risky as well.

‘Question of time’
The entire route between Bergen and Voss was under close watch by highway officials, and geologist Trine Helle Simmenes told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that “it’s only a question of time” before more rockslides thunder down the mountainsides.

“Right now I won’t drive here unless it’s absolutely necessary,” Simmenes, who lives in Dale and commutes work at Statoil in Bergen, told NRK. One major slide occurred near the tunnel at Stanghelle earlier this week, and another Thursday morning near the Kjenes tunnel.

The slides isolated the community of Vaksdal, which has been hit by seven slides just in the past two week. Sharp temperature changes that have led to freezing and thawing, followed by heavy rain, have made the mountainside highly unstable, according to Simmenes.

Nine climbers caught
Meanwhile, farther west at Hemsedal, nine of 11 persons who were part of a mountain climbing group were caught in an avalanche, the latest to hit near the popular skiing, hiking and climbing area this winter. Five of those involved were injured, with two flown to Ullevål University Hospital in Oslo for treatment.

Police told NRK the climbers were from Ireland and Sweden and all were found quickly. The two who suffered serious injury, however, were buried under mounds of snow and it was difficult to dig them out.

Police said there had been strong winds in the area, which can often set off avalanches, and the road through the valley was closed. Authorities have issued near-constant warnings about the avalanche danger and couldn’t understand why the group was climbing in an especially steep area where few ever venture. The avalanche occurred in an area that has no ties to any of the established alpine centers in Hemsedal.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

Please support our news service. Readers in Norway can use our donor account. Our international readers can click on our “Donate” button: