Vandals hit hot water in Oslo

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UPDATED: More than 20,000 Oslo residents weren’t able to take a hot shower Tuesday morning, after vandals reportedly clogged a pipe in utility firm Hafslund’s system that provides heat and hot water to homes and businesses in the downtown area. Hafslund managed to get hot water restored in at least some areas, though, by noon.

This is what met police and officials for Oslo utility firm Hafslund in the middle of the night. Vandals who set off the geyser caused a loss of hot water and heating for around 26,000 homes and businesses downtown. PHOTO: Hafslund

This is what met police and officials for Oslo utility firm Hafslund in the middle of the night. Vandals who set off the geyser caused a loss of hot water and heating for around 26,000 homes and businesses downtown. PHOTO: Hafslund

Police were called to the site of the vandalism, on Pilestredet just across from the Blitz House, at around 1:30am. “When we got there, a geyser of hot water was shooting up from a manhole in the street,” operations leader Gjermund Stokkli told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). He said it was so powerful that the water was spouting up to the roof level of nearby buildings, four floors above the ground.

“There was lots of steam and the geyser proved to be hot water from the system that runs under the ground there,” Stokkli said. A spokesman for Hafslund, where technicians already had registered a sudden loss of water pressure, blamed vandals for what amounted to a major leak in the system known as fjernvarme.

“It was quite clear that a heavy manhole cover had been removed and various objects had been thrown down into the system,” Truls E Jemtland, information chief for Hafslund Varme told NRK. Among the objects that clogged the system and forced the water upwards was a large discarded television.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Hafslund later  retracted Jemtland’s claim and said vandals were not to blame after all. See follow-up story here.)

Hafslund has had problems with its hot water and heat delivery before, most recently last winter when construction workers accidentally cut into another critical pipe sending hot water through the system. Jemtland said this is the first time, though, that Hafslund has experienced vandalism.

Tuesday’s major leak caused water levels and pressure to fall, which is why an estimated 26,000 homes and businesses were without hot water Tuesday morning. The leak in Pilestredet also set off another problem farther downtown in the Waterland area, and Jemtland said crews were scrambling to repair the damage.

Hafslund issued a progress report on the repairs at around 10am Tuesday but said it could still take several hours before hot water was fully restored. Some areas had hot water by noon. Hafslund was also trying to keep customers informed via phone and text messages. Police cordoned off the area around the spouting hot water and no injuries were reported.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund