Mountain finally crashes down

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The most worrisome portion of Norway’s highly unstable mountain, Mannen in Romsdalen, finally came crashing down to the valley below Thursday night. State broadcaster NRK captured the massive rockslide while local residents and geologists celebrated, after five years of steady alarms and frequent evacuations.

The most unstable part of the mountain, known as Veslemannen, finally gave way around 9pm Thursday. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) caught as much of the action as possible given the darkness, as boulders, rocks and dirt crashed to the valley below. PHOTO: NRK screen grab

“Nå skjer det! (Now it’s happening!)” Thrilled spectators could be heard shouting in the background of NRK’s video as huge boulders, rocks and dirt thundered down the mountainside shortly after 9pm. Geologists could confirm Friday morning that most of the portion of Mannen known as Veslemannen (literally, The Little Man), which they’ve been monitoring for years, had broken away and now isn’t expected to pose as much danger to those below it.

To see NRK’s video of the slide and aftermath, click here (external link to NRK’s website, in Norwegian. Scroll down to the 58-second video entitled “Se store deler av Veslemannen rase.”)

“It’s looking very good,” a visibly relieved Lars Harald Blikra, geologist and division chief for state agency NVE that’s been in charge of monitoring Mannen, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “The most fantastic thing will be to be finished with this problem.”

As daylight broke on Friday, geologists were as anxious as everyone else to better see the results of Thursday night’s long-awaited rockslide. Lars Harald Blikra of NVE (Norges vassdrags- og energi direktorat) said it was “looking very good.” PHOTO: NRK screen grab

As daylight broke on Friday, NRK was running live coverage of the area with more confirmation that portions of the mountain measuring as much as 50 meters (150 feet) had broken away from Mannen. That included a rocky spire that had caused the most concern.

Tremors from the spectacular rockslide were registered as far away as Bergen and Trondheim, according to the Norwegian National Seismic Network at the University of Bergen. That illustrated how strong the impact was when large portions of the mountainside hit the floor of the scenic Romsdal valley below in Rauma, located between Åndalsnes and Dombås.

The popular Raumabanen train line through the valley remained halted Friday morning as authorities made safety evaluations and noted that they couldn’t rule out more slides throughout the day. Geologists registered around 30-40 smaller rockslides during the night and ongoing movement within the mountain, but it was slight in comparison with readings earlier in the week.

Norway’s state agency in charge of monitoring the mountain has had equipment on Veslemannen for several years. This area, of most concern, is now believed to have broken away and crashed down to the scenic Romsdal valley below. PHOTO: NVE

It was a dramatic evening for the small group of residents living under Mannen. They’d already been evacuated once again after recent heavy rains raised the danger level, and could finally hear the beginning of the huge rock slide that Blika said seemed to have “left a big black hole up there.”

Mannen’s neighbours had been evacuated a total of 16 times since 2014, when the mountain’s instability first set off alarms, but had refused to move from property that had been in their family for generations. The value of the property was also questionable, and now several said they just wanted to go home.

“We are completely, incredibly happy,” Gunn Walstad Sogge, whose family was among those evacuated many times, told NRK. “We have danced a victory dance tonight.”

Rauma Mayor Lars Olav Hustad literally heaved a sigh of relief, live on national TV, before choking up with emotion while being interviewed by NRK: “When you think of all those who’ve had to evacuate so many times, it’s just this feeling that finally they can move home instead of moving out and in, out and in,” Hustad told NRK as he was moved to tears. “And all the local public employees who have worked so hard with this for five years … I can’t tell you how many meetings we’ve had to have, how big a problem this has been for us.”

Blikra of NVE, who was in Trondheim when the slide finally occurred, planned to be working with fellow geologists at the site on Friday, to further assess the situation. Plans called for sending up drones to see the results of the slides and then evaluate when residents could move home.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund