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Home* News and Stories → Avalan­che in Lon­gye­ar­by­en: evacua­ti­on lifted

Avalan­che in Lon­gye­ar­by­en: evacua­ti­on lifted

The wea­ther in Lon­gye­ar­by­en is final­ly sett­ling with tem­pe­ra­tures below zero and litt­le wind, so aut­ho­ri­ties could now lift the evacua­tions and gene­ral ban on any traf­fic in are­as on the eas­tern side of the sett­le­ment. Peop­le are free to return to their homes sin­ce Tues­day evening, 2000.

The cata­stro­phic avalan­che befo­re Christ­mas, which des­troy­ed 11 houses and kil­led two peop­le, was fol­lo­wed by an evacua­ti­on of a total of 114 flats. Con­se­quent­ly, about 200 peop­le had to lea­ve their homes, near 10 % of the total popu­la­ti­on. The exact num­ber is unknown, as not ever­y­bo­dy con­cer­ned repor­ted to the aut­ho­ri­ties. Some are also, as is qui­te com­mon, on Christ­mas holi­days, fol­lowing the events from warm beaches far away.

At the same time, the avalan­che hazard for parts of Lon­gye­ar­by­en is high­ligh­ted by aut­ho­ri­ties. This risk had been known for a long time, but now it has bru­tal­ly come to everybody’s minds, final­ly. A preli­mi­na­ry sys­tem with actu­al avalan­che risk eva­lua­ti­on has been instal­led on varsom.no, as has been com­mon­ly used in main­land Nor­way for some time alrea­dy. Ways to deal with the risk local­ly will be dis­cus­sed now. Are­as at risk will be map­ped and then mea­su­res from tech­ni­cal safe­ty means to – poten­ti­al­ly – per­ma­nent evacua­ti­on of some are­as will con­si­de­red. The local com­mu­ni­ty admi­nis­tra­ti­on (Lokals­ty­re) is respon­si­ble, in coope­ra­ti­on with rele­vant tech­ni­cal aut­ho­ri­ties.

The lack of safe­ty mea­su­res, a warning sys­tem and public awa­reness, also wit­hin the aut­ho­ri­ties, has recei­ved cri­ti­cism, as the risk had been known for many years. Lon­gye­ar­by­en will see a deba­te about respon­si­bi­li­ty.

The rele­vant part of Lon­gye­ar­by­en befo­re the avalan­che (image © Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te).

Longyearbyen avalanche

The rele­vant part of Lon­gye­ar­by­en after the avalan­che. Houses can be iden­ti­fied in both images by the num­bers. Buil­dings have been moved up to 80 metres (pho­to © Geir Barstein/Svalbardposten).

Longyearbyen avalanche

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

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last modification: 2016-01-06 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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