UPDATED: Police in the northwest coastal city of Ålesund ordered the evacuation of the city’s downtown area on Wednesday after firefighters warned of an acute danger of explosion. The warning came after gas flasks containing acetylen and oxygen accidentally landed in the sea.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that experts were worried the flasks could explode if they cooled down too rapidly, a real possibility given the chilly temperatures of local sea water. They later were retrieved from deep water, however, and had remained sealed. With the situation stabilized, police then withdrew the evacuation order and the alarm was called off.
“We have drawn up the gas flasks with a crane and they’ve been transported to a secure area on Flatholmen in Ålesund,” Olav Ramnefjell of the Ålesund olice told reporters. “We can destroy the flasks there in cooperation with fire department officials.”
The accident occurred in the harbor of the scenic coastal city at Skateflukaia in Ålesund. Police quickly ordered the evacuation of all buildings within a radius of 300 meters of Skateflukaia. NRK reported the entire area was cordoned off and witnesses described the evacuation as dramatic.
“We were ordered to leave our offices immediately, because of the danger of a gas explosion,” Lars Asbjørnsen, who works for Nytt i Uka in downtown Ålesund, told NRK. “We’re just standing here, outside the area cordoned off, until we get any further messages.”
Ramnefjell said police carried out the measures they believed to be “necessary in such a situation.” He said Ålesund residnets were “extremely cooperative and everyone did what they were told.” He thanked residents for respecting the police tape that cordoned off much of the historic downtown area, known for its unique collection of art nouveau architecture built after a devastating fire in 1904.