Flood threat moves south towards Mjøsa

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Damaging flood waters around Trysil in Norway’s eastern Hedmark region had finally started to recede on Tuesday morning. Oil and Energy Minister Tord Lien announced he and other government officials would visit the area in the afternoon, where businesses and residents are angry their calls for flood levees have been ignored. Meanwhile, state waterways agency NVE warned of a new flood threat to the southwest of Trysil at Mjøsa, a large inland lake by the town of Hamar.

The Norwegian home guard (Heimevernet) sent 11 soldiers to the flood-affected town of Trysil, where major flooding has damaged homes, businesses and farmland. Oil and Energy Minister announced he'd visit the town on Tuesday to hold talks with local authorities and NVE staff. While the waters are receding in Trysil, NVE warned towns further down the waterway would be threatened next. PHOTO: twitter.com/heimevernet

The Norwegian home guard (Heimevernet) sent 11 soldiers to the flood-affected town of Trysil, where major flooding has damaged homes, businesses and farmland. Oil and Energy Minister Tord Lien announced he’d visit the town on Tuesday to hold talks with local authorities and NVE staff. While the waters were receding in Trysil, NVE warned towns further down the waterway would be threatened next. PHOTO: twitter.com/heimevernet

Heavy rains and snowmelt caused flooding across swathes of the Hedmark and Oppland counties over the weekend, while around Trysil the river peaked at the “100 year flood” level. Roads and rail lines were cut off, and dozens of homes, businesses, crops and campgrounds were inundated.

“Some have moved out because the water has gone so high in the house it’s not possible to live there,” mayor Ole Martin Norderhaug told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “They will now face huge clean-up work in drying out basements and maybe replacing floors and other things. It’s clearly terrible work to take on so soon after the last major flood.”

Lien and state secretary Kåre Fostervold announced they would visit the flood-affected area on Tuesday afternoon to meet Norderhaug and NVE staff. Communications advisor Håkon Smith Isaksen could not say if the minister would be visiting Moelven lumber yard, which was under more than a metre of water. The sawmill owners, who employ 50 staff, have unsuccessfully called for embankments since the great flood of 1995. The flood damage at the mill was thought to be around NOK 15 million (USD 2.5 million) on Tuesday, while it’s estimated flood levees by the yard would cost NOK 19 million to build.

Flood waters moving south
“In Trysil, the situation during the night has been as we hoped, that the water flow has gone somewhat down and the water level has also lowered slightly in relation to the middle of the day yesterday, when it was at its highest,” NVE chief engineer Paul Christen Røhr told NRK.

He warned the water was now moving southwards through Hedmark county, towards Akershus. The water levels at the large inland lake of Mjøsa about 100 kilometers to the south-west of Trysil were expected to keep rising throughout the week. Flooding has caused damage there twice in the past few years, and authorities anticipated this week would be just as bad.

“We’re still expecting rising water levels there, and for it to rise throughout the week towards the weekend,” Røhr said. “It will rise 70-80 centimeters in relation to what it is today. About what it was in 2011 and 2013. People who have property or equipment by Mjøsa should use the coming days to move things or secure them as well as they can, with regard to the water now becoming high.”

“We have established a crisis team for technical operations and construction, and are following procedures and therefore are well prepared,” said Hamar mayor Morten Aspeli. “The crisis team has daily meetings and we get warnings from the county and NVE. In the days ahead, low rainfall and some slightly cooler weather is expected, and that’s helpful.”

Calls for more flood funding
NRK anticipated levee construction would be discussed during Tuesday’s meeting at Trysil, but it was not known if any further funding would be announced. An extra NOK 50 million for NVE was proposed in the revised national budget earlier this month, but a review by the agency showed more than 50 towns and villages in Norway are in need of flood protection measures. About 22,000 Norwegians live in flood-prone areas.

“We clearly see there’s a need for more flood protection than we have managed so far, and some upgrades of existing flood protection too,” said NVE’s Steinar Schanche. “With planning processes and so on it can take two to three years, maybe a little more. That is okay with the funds we have at our disposal, but it does not hide the fact it could have gone faster with a little more money.”

“NVE is under-funded,” said Nedre Eiker mayor Ben Inge Bye. His community in Buskerud county is threatened when the Drammen river rises. “Now we’re seeing what’s happening in Trysil. A catastrophe can happen if more money is not appropriated. We need money for flood protection, it’s as simple as that. If NVE does not get more money, then one disaster can replace another.”

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate