Monitors ‘failed to issue top flood alert’

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Violent flooding has caused chaos and destruction in west Norway. In the small town of Odda, the Opo river washed awaty homes and bridges. PHOTO: NTB Scanpix

Destruction in the town of Odda as floods wash away homes and bridges. PHOTO: NTB Scanpix

The government agency charged with monitoring water levels in  Norway’s rivers and waterways was the target of fierce criticism on Wednesday, the day after rapidly swelling rivers caused severe flooding in large parts of west Norway. 

The agency, Norges Vassdrags- og energidirektorat (NVE), reportedly failed to issue timely warnings to vulnerable communities that flooding was underway. On Tuesday, several NVE monitoring stations in Sogn og Fjordane county registered water levels indicating high flooding risk, which would justify a so-called red alert.

But that information never made it further than s blog owned by NVE, state broadcaster NRK reported. According to an NRK report, NVE staff didn’t want to unnerve people unnecessarily. As a result, local communities stuck to “orange” alert and prepared for floods accordingly. Noralv Distad, mayor of Aurland, noted that the flooding situation got much worse than expected.

“If we’d known this in advance, we could have called in more personnel  at an earlier stage,” Distad told NRK.

Another community leader said locals had acted not on information from NVE, but were alerted by county authorities and the general weather forecast.

Meanwhile, several hundred people could not return to their homes on Wednesday, as water levels were still considered dangerous and roads closed in several areas. In the Hjøllo district near Odda which was isolated after furious flooding tore away bridges and destroyed roads, residents were evacuated by helicopter on Wednesday evening.

newsinenglish.no staff