Death toll continues to rise days after major landslide in Norway

Rescue workers have uncovered a seventh body from a landslide that buried homes in a village near Norway's capital, police said Sunday, but hopes persist that three people still missing might yet be found alive.

Rescue crews work in the area at Ask in Gjerdrum, on January 2, 2021, after a massive landslide smashed into a residential area near the Norwegian capital on Wednesday.
Rescue crews work in the area at Ask in Gjerdrum, on January 2, 2021, after a massive landslide smashed into a residential area near the Norwegian capital on Wednesday. © Tor Erik Schroeder, AP

The tragedy occurred early on Wednesday when houses were destroyed and shifted hundreds of metres under a torrent of mud in the village of Ask, 25 km (15 miles) northeast of Oslo.

Police spokesman Bjorn Christian Willersrud told journalists they hoped to find more survivors in the landslide zone. "It is still a rescue operation until we decide otherwise," he said.

Earlier Sunday, the head of the rescue operation, Goran Syversen, told reporters: "We are working hard in the depression created by the landslide. 

"We have five teams working at the same time. They are doing very difficult work which is not without risk. Nevertheless, we are making good progress."

Police said the latest body was found near where two others had been recovered, but gave no further details. The teams, backed up by sniffer dogs, helicopters and drones, have now found three bodies on Sunday, one on Saturday and three on Friday.

So far they have identified the body of the first person found on Friday as 31-year-old Eirik Gronolen. The identities of the others have not been released.

But police have published the names of all 10 people, including a two-year-old and a 13-year-old, who went missing on Wednesday.


Ten people were also injured in the landslide, including one seriously who was transferred to Oslo for treatment.

About 1,000 people of the town's population of 5,000 have been evacuated, because of fears for the safety of their homes as the land continues to move.

"It is a completely surreal and terrible situation," one of the evacuees, Olav Gjerdingen, told AFP, adding that his family were sheltering at a hotel.

Royal visit

The rescuers received a visit Sunday from King Harald, his wife Sonja and Crown Prince Haakon, who lit candles for the victims in a local church.

"I'm having trouble finding something to say, because it's absolutely horrible," the king said after the visit.

"This terrible event impacts us all. I sympathise with you who are beginning the new year with sadness and uncertainty," he said in a televised statement.

The authorities have banned all aircraft from the disaster area until 3 pm Monday as they conduct aerial searches.

"We are searching where we believe we might still find survivors," said the head of the team of firefighters, Kenneth Wangen, adding that the search zone had been expanded.

The teams, who are also seeking to rescue family pets, were digging channels in the ground to evacuate casualties.

The Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) said the disaster was a "quick clay slide" of approximately 300 by 800 metres (yards).

Quick clay is a sort of clay found in Norway and Sweden that can collapse and turn to fluid when overstressed.

On the recommendations of the NVE, the authorities decided to narrow the evacuation, allowing some local people to return to their homes.

Some local people have lit candles near the perimeter of the disaster site in tribute to the victims.


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