The grim work continued on Monday to search for the bodies of three men from Lithuania who were clearing a forest at Sørum, northeast of Oslo, when the land slid out from under them on Thursday. The local mayor and as many as 70 mourners took part in a memorial at the site on Sunday.
The missing men have now been identified as Paulius Kuliecius, age 27, Arturas Miskinis (37) and Darius Sciukas (47), all from the small town of Pagiriai in Lithuania’s Kedainiai district. Three other Lithuanian workers escaped from the tons of mud and clay that gave way underneath them and are believed to have buried those missing.
Emergency crews have been at the site since the slide occurred, using helicopters, drones, dogs and excavating equipment to carefully sift through the still-unstable land masses. By Monday morning, they’d gone through the equivalent of 60 truckloads of dirt and mud, finding only a glove and a motorsaw.
The search continued in rainy weather throughout the day on Monday until darkness descended, making already difficult work even more of a challenge. Geologists are also at the site in addition to police and search crews in an area that’s still considered dangerous.
“We are searching to find the missing men, and we will continue to search in the areas where we think they may be and for as long as it’s defensible from a security point of view,” Hans Holmgrunn, chief of the Øst Police District in Romerike, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).
They’ve been assisted by the three survivors, who knew where the missing men were working. Their bodies may have been carried away in the slide, however, which is said to extend over an area that’s around 400- by 300 meters, with mud and clay that’s 60 meters deep. Holmgrunn said the 60 truckloads of mud that’s been searched and driven away is “a very small portion” of the slide.
The cause of the slide remained unclear, with locating the men set as the top priority. An investigation will be conducted into the reasons for slide, which have occurred in the area before but not for around 30 years. City officials had allowed the forest-clearing operation to expand farmland, pointing to a report from Norges Geotekniske Institute (NGI) that they believe concluded that the area was outside the danger area for clay and mudslides.