State highway officials were scrambling on Monday to try to reopen a portion of the main E6 highway in Northern Norway that connects the counties of Troms and Finnmark. Some local residents were blaming the landslide on the highway officials themselves, who’ve been building a new tunnel in the area.
The landslide late Saturday night crashed down onto the E6 highway at Sørkjosen, just north of Storslett in Troms. It badly damaged the road and cut into a breakwater that protected a small boat harbour, setting both it and a wharf adrift.
The only alternative means of driving from Nord-Troms to, for example, the city of Alta, is through Finland, a detour of no less than 700 kilometers (420 miles). Truck drivers heading west to Tromsø, for example, from Finnmark were being warned that until the highway could be reopened, they’d need to drive south from Alta to Kautokeino, over the border into Finland before meeting up with the E8 highway back north again into Norway through Skibotn.
Officials at the state highway department (Statens vegvesen) claimed they were putting all possible resources into repairing and reopening the E6 at Sørkjosen but it couldn’t occur before Wednesday at the earliest. Geologists and technicians were at the site “and we’re working hard with drilling and charting the damage” to build the fjord-side road up again, said Rigmor Thorsteinsen, a divisional director at Statens vegvesen.
“Our job first and foremost is to get the E6 reopened for traffic, as fast as the limits of safety allow,” she stated. She said that in connection with the tunnel and road work already going on in the area, the agency had “good access” to geo-technical experts and resources to determine the stability of the ground, also with the aim of preventing more landslides.
Local fishermen and other residents were worrying that work on a tunnel between Sørkjosen and Langslett, meant to improve the E6 as it swings over the mountains between the Lyngen and Reisa fjords, caused the landslide by making the mountain unstable.
“This wasn’t entirely unexpected,” fisherman Knut Evanger told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). The seabed reportedly gave way under coastal road and mountainside. Highway officials said it was too early to draw any conclusions and their first priority was to repair the damage.