Two children, aged eight and 10, witnessed both their parents being killed on Sunday when the ice suddenly shifted on a Norwegian glacier where they’d just been walking with a guide. The parents, both German tourists, had ventured onto the glacier on their own afterwards, when the ice suddenly collapsed and crashed over them.
“I heard the ice crash down,” Erik Bloemink, another tourist from the Netherlands, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). He’d been on the same guided tour of the Nigardsbreen (Nigard Glacier) with the German family and didn’t recall seeing anyone cross over the barriers warning people to stay off the ice afterwards. He said there were several hundred people at the glacier on Sunday and that there had been several guided tour groups during the day.
“Thee was no panic, we were walking towards the parking lot and people stayed calm,” Bloemink contined. “We didn’t know that anyone had fallen into the glacier.” Emergency vehicles and helicopters arrived quickly, and the group’s guide told the tourists what had happened. The fatal accident occurred where the river that runs under the glacier emerges from the ice, the so-called breporten, or gateway.
“We all immediately felt so sorry for the children,” Bolemink said. “We can’t even imagine how they must be feeling.” The children were physically uninjured and both were placed in crisis care. Police later reported that relatives from Germany were on their way to Norway and expected to arrive in the local community of Luster on Monday to escort them home.
Beautiful but dangerous
Experts are constantly warning in Norway that glaciers are dangerous and in constant movement, especially after this year’s record warm summer. Signs are posted along the edge of the glacier, warning tourists to stop coming any closer, but they are often ignored.
Police, ambulances, a search and rescue helicopter, an ambulance helicopter, search and rescue crews and divers arriving at the scene were initially uncertain whether other people were hit by the ice as well. A search was later called off around 8pm.
The glacier, an arm of the Jostedals glacier, is a popular tourist attraction. Ivar Kvalen, the mayor of Luster municipality, stressed that all the glaciers are dangerous, though, not least in the warmth of summer. He said the degree of glacial melting has been especially high this year, as Norway has experienced record warm temperatures.
“We’ve had a period of extended warm weather and there’s been a lot of melting, probably more than normal,” Kvalen told NRK. “The glacier edges can be even more unstable than they usually are, and that’s why it’s important to keep your distance.”