A brand-new stretch of Norway’s highly trafficked E18 highway around Larvik was hailed as the “project of the year” when it was completed just last year. Several tons of rock and boulders ended up crashing down on its southbound lanes heading into the weekend, and officials claim they’ll “turn every stone” until they find out why.
“It’s just a coincidence that no one was killed,” Andre Kråkenes, operations leader for the Southeast Police District, told TV2 after the slide late Friday night. A portion of the mountain that had been carved away to make room for the expanded highway, which connects with the new landmark Farris Bridge at Larvik, literally broke away, leaving huge boulders strewn over the divided highway.
The top priority on Monday was to clear away the rubble, secure the mountainside and re-open the highway, hopefully by late this week. Its closure has led to massive traffic jams through the city of Larvik itself, or long detours on old, two-lane windy roads.
The scenic stretch of highway has won awards and greatly eased traffic between Oslo and Skien/Porsgrunn and on to Sørlandet. Now it will be the target of an investigation into how such a dangerous slide could occur. The highway’s main building contractors, Skanska and Rambøll, remained mostly mum on Monday, declining to answer questions from state broadcaster NRK. The state highway department, Vegvesenet, was handling the aftermath.