Police confirm the first slide fatality

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Emergency crews have found the first victim of this week’s catastrophic landslide at Gjerdrum, north of Oslo, after search and rescue operations continued through the night and on New Year’s Day. Police confirmed the fatality late Friday afternoon, while still insisting that they continue to have “full focus” on finding survivors.

Norway’s Special Operation Commando is among military units working with police and search and rescue crews in coordinating efforts to find survivors and victims of the massive landslide in Gjerdrum. The depth of the slide can be seen in the background of this photo, with seemingly intact homes teetering on the edge of it. PHOTO: Forsvaret/Torbjørn Kjosvold

Police wouldn’t immediately reveal either the gender or age of the slide victim, or exactly where the body was found. They said they’re in close touch with relatives of the 10 people who were still missing Friday morning, a number reduced to nine by Friday evening.

Those waiting for word on the status of the search for the nine missing men, women and children “are being kept informed at all times about what we’re doing and where we’re operating,” operations leader Roy Alkvist told reporters at a press conference Friday afteroon.

The search and rescue crews also intend to keep working “intensively” through the coming night as well, Alkvist said. “We have full focus on finding survivors,” Alkvist told reporters at a press conference Friday afternoon, “but we’re prepared that we can find more victims.” As darkness set in on the first day of the New Year, he stressed it would not “keep us from continuing with our plans to keep working throughout the night.”

Urban seach and rescue team aids efforts
Norwegian military and state police are cooperating in the search efforts, which were aided on Friday by the arrival of a special team from Sweden specializing in finding people inside damaged buildings. Health care officials at the scene also refused to rule out the possibility of finding survivors after the massive landslide under a residential area that began around 4am on Wednesday.

The search crews could finally begin some searches on the ground itself, after two days of having to work from helicopters because of unstable and dangerous conditions on the surface of the slide. “We’re now going through the debris and masses of mud in the lower area of the slide,” Alkvist said, adding that they’re using styrofoam plates and specially trained dogs.

They remain certain more people are caught in the massive slide area. A dog was found on Thursday and has since been reunited with its owners.

‘Sorrow over the message we feared’
Prime Minister Erna Solberg express “deep sorrow over receipt of the message we have feared,” that the slide that has displaced hundreds of people has turned fatal. “My thoughts go to those who have lost someone they held dear,” Solberg told news bureau NTB. “I’m thinking also about all those who are now living with uncertainty about those still missing.”

Many others have also lost everything they owned, but donations and active forms of assistance were literally pouring in over the New Year’s holiday, from clothing and food to toys for children and even food for evacuees’ pets. More than 1,000 people remain evacuated and remain unsure when or whether they’ll be allowed to return to homes still standing. Many are being put up at hotels around Oslo’s main airport, OSL Gardermoen, that’s nearby. More evacuations loomed as geologists warned of unstable ground in an expanded area.

NewsInEnglish.no/Nina Berglund