More than 100 residents of Longyearbyen, the main settlement on Svalbard, were evacuated after a severe winter storm slammed into the Arctic island group on Svalbard. Schools, day care centers and several stores and businesses were also closed, as meteorologists warned that the weather would get worse before getting better.
Avalanche danger was set at the highest levels, which is why 29 homes at the foot of the mountain known as Sukkertoppen were evacuated. An avalanche just before Christmas in 2015 destroyed homes in the area earlier, and left two residents dead.
Around 80 students were also told to leave their apartments, along with visitors staying in a university guest house. Extreme winds were expected to hit hurricane force.
Aina Malerud, receptionist at one of Svalbard’s popular and fully booked hotels, said some guests were anxious, and unhappy about having to stay indoors. “We have lots of guests with lots of questions,” Malerud told state broadcaster NRK, “so we just need to concentrate on giving them as much information as we have and make sure they’re fine indoors.” She admitted, however, that the extreme weather “was very uncomfortable and scary, especially when we know what it can cause.”