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Home* News and Stories → Living house in Longyearbyen in danger of collapse: evacuation

Living house in Longyearbyen in danger of collapse: evacuation

Longyearbyen is currently having tough times, especially if you happen to live in the wrong house: after the catastrophic destruction of 11 houses and the loss of two lives during an avalanche before Christmas, the old hospital had to be evacuated very quickly last week. The old hospital (gamle sykehuset) is near the Spitsbergen-Hotel (formerly Hotel Funken) upvalley from the centre. It was built in 1954 and converted to a living house with 16 flats in 1997.

More recently, the building had shown signs of movement such as minor cracks in walls and shifting angles – nothing that caused any greater concern, but it caught enough attention to ask for the report of a civil engineer. The result came Thursday last week and it hit the inhabitants like a hammer: at 4 p.m. people were told that they had to leave their homes until 10 p.m. the same day. Anything they were unable to remove from their homes would be out of reach for some time, as it was not allowed to enter the building at all from then on, initially.

Currently, the inhabitants get permission to enter their homes under restrictions to retrieve their belongings as much as possible. Some have already offered their belongings for sale or even for free to anyone who is able to pick it up.

The building is in danger of collaps, but when this may or may not happen is not known. It may collapse today or stand for another year or more. But it is not expected that people will be able to move back.

For the inhabitants, who are mostly the owners of their homes, this came as a total shock and, in some cases, it is likely to be a complete economical disaster.

The local administration (lokalstyre) has offered temporary accommodation to those concerned, but only for a couple of weeks. Not a lot of time for every for everybody to find new homes.

The old hospital (gamle sykehuset) lies within a calmer dwelling area a bit away from downtown Longyearbyen. Currently, it is not quite as calm there: the inhabitants were evacuated on very short notice last week.

The old hospital (gamle sykehuset) in Longyearbyen

last modification: 2016-02-24 · copyright: Rolf Stange