Oslo residents lose heat, hot water

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UPDATED: Large portions of Oslo were without hot water and even heat Wednesday night, and well into Thursday, after construction workers accidentally dug into a critical pipe serving the local utility Hafslund. Residents were warned that hot water wouldn’t be restored until Thursday morning, but then they still faced cold showers.

“We’re very sorry that so many Oslo residents have woken up to cold homes and cold offices,” Truls Jemtland, information chief in Hafslund, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). Tens of thousands of Hafslund customers are affected, and the company conceded it could take a long time to restore warm water and the floor heating that it also provides in many buildings.

Chill descends on City Hall
Among buildings tapping into Hafslund’s so-called  fjernvarme network are many new residential and office complexes along with the Oslo City Hall, the Parliament (Stortinget), and the relatively new residence of the prime minister just behind the Royal Palace. In some buildings, warm water and heating briefly returned during the night, only to disappear again in the morning.

“Our radiators are getting colder and colder, but because the building is so large and the walls are warmed up, it’s not bad yet,” a City Hall maintenance official told NRK. “We’re closing off some areas that we don’t need to warm up.”

Construction accident on Akersgata
The accident occurred on a construction project on Akersgata, just east of the Norwegian Parliament building (Stortinget) around 3:30pm on Wednesday.  The massive leak reduced the water pressure in Hafslund’s fjernvarme system that has become a popular, environmentally friendly and low-cost source of heat in the Norwegian capital in recent years.

By early evening, households and commercial enterprises alike had no hot water running through their taps unless they were served by conventional electric hot water heaters. Those with floor heating served through Hafslund’s underground network also lost their main source of warmth as temperatures outside hovered around the freezing point.

“Now we must announce that large areas of Oslo, not just the downtown area, are without heat and hot water, and it probably won’t be restored this evening,” Jemtland, told NRK just before 9pm.

Refunds offered
The pipe damage led to a sharp drop in water pressure in Hafslund’s underground network, Jemtland said. “We’re trying to gain control over the problem, so that folks can gradually notice that their warmth is coming back,” he added.

He said on Thursday, though, that it was taking much more time than expected to refill Hafslund’s extensive network “because so much water ran out of it.” He advised residents to use any electric heaters they might have, or they could buy new ones with strength up to 2000 watts, with Hafslund offering to pay up to the NOK 1,000 of their cost.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund