UPDATED: An uncontrolled explosion at a construction site in the mountain town of Geilo on Wednesday left three persons dead and two injured, one of them seriously. Emergency crews called in specially trained dogs to help find the third victim, who was missing for hours under the rubble.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that the early afternoon explosion occurred when dynamite used at the site suddenly exploded without warning. The state highway department (Statens Vegvesen) is building a new passageway at the site to run under the railroad tracks through the area. It remained unclear whether the dynamite that exploded was in a drilled hole or on the surface where the construction work was proceeding.
Police cordoned off the entire area within a 400-meter radius of the blast site and evacuated the residents of two nearby homes, for fear of another blast. Police also asked that students not be released from local schools until the area just east of the center of town at Trøo was declared safe. The actual construction site remained unsafe late into Wednesday night, blocking both the train line and highway running through Geilo.
An explosions expert from the state directorate for safety and preparedness was flown to the site in a police helicopter, to advise emergency crews at the scene. “The worksite is still extremely dangerous and it’s making our investigation and efforts to clear the site difficult,” Odd Halvard Seterdal of the Geilo Police told NRK Wednesday night. “We haven’t been able to just go into the area like we normally would.” Explosives are scattered around the site and must be removed and detonated, he said.
NRK reported that the explosion damaged several homes in the area and the main highway through town, Riksvei 7, was expected to remain closed for at least another day. The highway is one of the main routes over the mountains to Bergen, and traffic was being diverted to Highway 52 over Hemsedalsfjellet, County Road 50 between Hol and Aurland, County Road 40 through Numedal or the E16 highway.
The blast also blocked the rail line over the mountains between Bergen and Oslo, Bergensbanen. Railway officials initially thought train service could resume Wednesday evening but police said the area could not be declared safe until sometime on Thursday.
The three victims confirmed dead were not identified pending notification of next of kin. Geilo officials set up a crisis team at the nearby Bardøla Hotel. The condition of one of the two injured was listed as critical Wednesday night, while the other person suffered more minor injuries. The cause of the blast was under investigation.