Norway attacks: The agony of the rescue

Flowers float in Lake Tyrifjorden with Utoeya island in the background, 26 July Flowers were still being dropped in Lake Tyrifjorden on Tuesday

All day small groups of people come down to the water's edge and look across the sound to the tiny island of Utoeya. The dock is clearly visible. The distance is not much more than 400m (yds). For hundreds of young people this deep channel was their means of escape from a gunman hunting them down.

The closest point to the island is a caravan site and a cove where you can tie up a boat.

Last Friday the people in the camps heard the shooting. Some thought it was fireworks set up at the summer camp. Then they saw the frantic swimming, the cries for help that echoed across the bay.

In the hour and a quarter afterwards, this camp site was the centre of a rescue operation. Holiday-makers scrambled down the cinder path, leapt into their boats and headed towards the island. There may have been 100 people in the water.

Among the first to go out were Bjorn Juvet and his wife Aasa. Because the young people were fleeing a man in police uniform the swimmers were suspicious.

"The first thing," said Aasa, "was that they didn't trust us." Even though they were desperate they held back from climbing into the boat. "Can we trust you?" they shouted again. Aasa told them she was a mother and they came to the boat.

But there were too many in the water. Some were wounded. Some had found life jackets, most had not. Bjorn said it was good to help people but others had to be left in the water. A terrible choice.

The freezing, shivering swimmers were wrapped in blankets. Aasa told them, "Someone has to call the police." But they said they had been making calls but, at first, no one believed them.

No mood to criticise
An armed Norwegian policewoman stands guard in Oslo, 25 July Questions about the police response should come later, people around Utoeya say

Aasa drove some of them towards the nearest town of Sundvollen. On the way they encountered a police roadblock. The local police were waiting for armed response units to arrive from Oslo. The police officer was a woman in uniform with a gun.

When the young people saw her they screamed and urged Aasa not to stop. They did not know who to trust.

Eventually after an hour the police Swat teams arrived but there was a further delay.

They jumped into a local police boat but it was too small and sprang a leak. They had to commandeer private boats for the short crossing to the island. Having arrived there, the gunman Breivik surrendered in under two minutes.

There had been at least one press helicopter over the island. It managed to take pictures of Breivik surrounded by bodies. The police helicopter was parked some way south of the capital. The Swat teams chose to travel the 40km (25 miles) from the capital by car. It took them just under half an hour.

Many of the rescuers are scarred by what happened. Bjorn said: "I saw things that no one should see."

There are questions about the police response but the local community is in no mood to criticise. Everything is so raw and painful.

What everyone now understands is that Breivik, the gunman, deliberately planted a bomb in the capital knowing it would draw in police and rescue units, giving him the time to massacre young people at a summer camp.

Gavin Hewitt Article written by Gavin Hewitt Gavin Hewitt Europe editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    I think the media,and political establishment are deliberately not telling the whole truth about this episode - I think Breivik actions are indeed part of a bigger political movement and I think the Knights Templar cells are real - I suspect the events in Serbia may be connected to the actions of Breivik! - more of these actions will materialise. Its all very scary - thunderbolts + lightening!

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    151 powermeer
    "after we've retaliated for 9/11."
    And just how many innocent people world wide have been sacrificed by now so that you could feel good for getting your own back? And how much resentment will that cause in the children of those killed and who will want their own revenge when they are ready?
    "People who fight fire with fire usually end up with ashes."
    A Christian country?

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    What we have to ask ourselves, as Europeans, is whether we want an American gun culture to go with the burgers and obesity that arguably we have imported. I could go further and make mention of the imported drivel that entertains us while we sit eating the aforementioned burgers, but I wont. And it is this drivel and guns that could possibily make a toxic mix

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    America, was built on a gun-culture because at its begining it was essential. It was a new country with llittle ot no comprehensive law enforcement system for many of the population. On top of which, the Indians unreasonably declined to give up their land to the new folks without a fight. The gun culture, like fast food, is very much part of the history of the American cultural landscape.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.


    Stopping terrorist attacks has absolutely nothing, zilch, nada to do with having an armed population.

    Gun control is very strict in England - and you are 58 times LESS likely to be killed by a gun as a result. Not perfect,no guarantees but better than 175 Americans being MURDERED every week with a gun being the murder weapon. Just what are you defending?

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    "Being armed obviously doesn't protect America."

    Yes it does, and he fact that after we've retaliated for 9/11 there hasn't any major succesful terrorist attack on U.S. soil confirms it.

    If Olof Palme and Anna Lidh were armed they'd probably be still alive.

    Btw. some of those killed in the US were robbers and other assorted thugs shot by law-abiding citizens in self defense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    148 powermeer
    "Guns don't kill people; PEOPLE kill people."
    Too true - and that's why we don't want to relax gun laws in Europe.Statistics for 2001 for gun deaths worldwide speak for themselves:
    America had 10 deaths per 100 000 population next Italy with 1.9 , England had 0.17, Scotland 0.26 and Germany was so low it didn't even figure.
    Being armed obviously doesn't protect America.

  • Comment number 149.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    "Perhaps Norway needs to look at its firearms laws before spending too much time navel-gazing over the nature of society."

    Germany has very strict gun control laws and yet they did nor prevent 2022 Erfurt masssacre.

    Scotland ditto - but they did not prevent a massacre (involving many kids) in 1966.

    Guns don't kill people; PEOPLE kill people.

    [esp. those disarmed by their states]

  • Comment number 147.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 146.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 145.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    The agenda of the Left is to get us to accept their social doctrines, in which case you are free to agree, but non acceptance means you are not free, and could face imprisonment for exercising your non-freedom. Isn't this what the ideology of polical correctness is all about? We have let our freedoms be taken away by attention seeking and grinning politicians, like sheep.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    119, powermeerkat,

    I agree with your comments about the Norwegians. They, like so many have become muzzled and disenfranchised by the politicians that govern them, in name of course of freedom and democracy. Multiculturalism is an agenda for the left with their utopian or Hellish vision for all of us. Cultural diversity is more enriching for all of us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    #129 #130


    Americans supposedly defend free speech, you might like to try it sometime. You dont have the role of censor, anymore than the Pole is content editor.

    The US would never even be mentioned on this blog if not for American provocation and hijacking. The US would be ignored and irrelevant, and for the American primadonnas that troll here, that is a fate worse than death.

  • Comment number 141.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 140.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    The solution is simple - Stop existing as an animal in the delusional belief one seeks to live as an angel!

    If a 'thing' is rationally wrong, bad, evil - then one must fight it - there is no compromise, no deal to be done - no amount of mystic tricks can alter or avoid the inevitable - only the rational can deal with reality - no amount of emotional garbage whim can save self deluded minds!

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    The high priests of the Doctrine of Sacrifice - evaders, deceivers and fakers offer counterfeits - keep telling you there is no alternative to sacrifice, no other way to exist but by the whim of others as impotent, self immolating - wretched creatures of no value - convince each to exist in fear + guilt - a kind of endless meaningless existence.

    But it is not supposed to be like this folks

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    And so each fails to grasp humanity's requirement for a rational morality - and each is forced into a desperate fight against reality - and the preachers insist there is no alternative!

    Aristotle never cries tears while Plato giggles at fear created in the past! Nietzsche destroys the power of your rational mind!


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