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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

More rain causes more problems

Heavy rain continued to fall over Southern Norway during the weekend, setting off more flooding and continuing to disrupt traffic. The costs of damage caused by last week’s massive flooding and landslides have now risen to well over NOK 1 billion, while transport companies are losing NOK 1 million a day because key rail lines remain closed.

Rivers and creeks in Southern Norway have been raging for nearly two weeks now, with warnings up again during the weekend because of more heavy rain. Some sunshine was forecast for early this week, but it may not last long.  PHOTO: NewsinEnglish.no/Morten Møst

Police were attributing several traffic accidents on Sunday to the heavy rain that kept falling through the weekend. News bureau NTB reported accidents on the main E6 highway at Sarpsborg, where their drivers lost control because of what police called “water planing.”

Police closed the left lane of the E6 heading for Moss because of “too much water on the road,”  while flooding also led to accidents on the E18 southwest of Oslo, at Lierstranda and Porsgrunn. Emergency crews were also called out to assist residents with flooded cellars in Holmestrand and Sandefjord.

Flooding tied to the raging rivers still pouring into the Randsfjord and Tyrifjord, meanwhile, kept warning levels at red alert levels. State engineers believe flood levels have finally topped out at most other major lakes and rivers, but warnings remained at the “red-alert” level along the two fjords. They think water levels will “slowly start sinking” over the next few days.

Lower portions of the river Drammenselva can also cause more flooding along its banks, but flood warnings were lowered in the mountain valleys of Hallingdal, Begnadalen and Etnedal. Landslide warnings were retained, though, in most of Innlandet and Viken counties.

As property owners and insurance companies struggled to find enough inspectors to assess all the damage, thousands of claims were already rapidly inflating cost estimates to more than NOK 1 billion. On top of that will come repair costs for roads, bridges, highways and rail lines, with most of the latter still closed in Southern Norway.

One of the biggest problems was the collapse of a key railroad bridge over the river Lågen at Ringebu last week. That has kept Dovrebanen, the main train line between Oslo and Trondheim, closed, now indefinitely. Conseqences for the transport of cargo and post are huge.

Newspaper Aftenposten reported on Friday that Norway’s largest rail transport firm, CargoNet, is losing NOK 1 million a day. “We’ve fortunately been able to divert some transport to Rørosbanen (which runs through Østerdalen),” Ingvild Storås, managing director of CargoNet, told Aftenposten, but the firm is still left with “considerably smaller” capacity than usual. Rørosbanen isn’t electrified and can thus only accommodate short trains with diesel-fuelled locomotives that run slower.

Cargo operators are thus seeking state compensation for the loss of rail service, which may soon also result in shortages since lots of grocery items are transported by rail for wholesalers and grocery chains. Some cargo is being switched over to trucks, but that’s leading to far more heavy and climate-unfriendly transport on over-burdened highways, some of which have also been damaged by flooding.

“This is extremely economically challenging,” Ole A Hagen business policy director for national employer organization NHO’s logistics and transport division, told Aftenposten. NHO is demanding compensation for its cargo members after the rail bridge collapsed.

Cecilie Knibe Kroglund, state secretary in the Transport Ministry, responded that “we understand the impatience with getting solutions in place as quickly as possible.” More cargo train departures have been added to Rørosbanen, but not nearly enough to replace capacity lost on Dovrebanen. State government officials have also promised more financial aid to local communities hit hard by the flooding and landslides.

NewsinEnglish.no/Nina Berglund

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