Costs of severe storm damage pile up

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As residents of central Norway continue to mop up and tally their losses after last week’s storm known as “Ivar,” insurance companies are also adding up damage claims. New waves of extreme weather, floods and resulting landslides have cost at least NOK 6.5 billion over the past 10 years, and the storms are rolling in much more often.

Many households were still without power Sunday night after Ivar swept over the counties of Møre og Romsdal and Trøndelag last Thursday. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) featured one dairy farmer who’d been without electricity in his barn for more than three days when the power finally came back late Sunday. “That was a relief,” Trond Hodne told NRK, after he’d resorted to carefully running a generator to keep the water (on electrical pumps) and ventilation system in the barn going, as well as feeding and milking his herd.

Compensation claims rising
More than 50,000 households were knocked out in the beginning, and emergency crews working continuously through the weekend to restore power to the area’s outlying areas, not least around Meråker and Stjørdal. By Saturday, 24,000 remained without electricity in Trøndelag, after Ivar’s hurricane-force winds knocked down power lines or sent trees crashing over them.

The storm also knocked out 134 mobil telephone bases that run on electricity, so thousands more residents were without communications.

It all means that compensation claims will surpass NOK 1 billion (USD 166 million) this year, for the second time in three years, reports newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). And the storm known as Ivar wasn’t as long-lasting or destructive as first feared.

It was, however, the latest in a string of severe storms sweeping in off the North Sea and the Arctic, and that worries state authorities and the insurance companies.

Unprepared
“Our clear conclusion is that extreme weather is coming more and more often and with greater force,” Morten Thorsrud, chief executive of insurance firm If, told DN. “New records for precipitation and winds are being set steadily.” Øystein Thoresen of rival insurance firm Gjensidige said the global warming will probably lead to even more bad storms.

State authorities have been accused of being unprepared for the deluge, with politicians also having failed to increase sewer capacity or allowing construction in areas vulnerable to floods and landslides. Thoresen told DN that the insurance branch has paid out more than NOK 600 million for damage blamed on sewers and drainage systems unable to handle rainwater or snowmelt.

Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim and Stavanger are also believed to have inadequate electricity networks, and Thoresen believes the problems will only increase.

“This is all about various kinds of flood prevention,” he said. “But also quite banal things like sewage systems that don’t have the dimensions to handle increasing demands.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund