Europe

Avalanche kills man in Norway's Svalbard archipelago

  • 19 December 2015
  • From the section Europe
Media captionRescue workers used shovels, excavators, and powerful lamps to dig through the snow in the darkness

An avalanche has hit the main settlement on Norway's Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, killing one person and injuring nine others.

It sent snow and ice hurtling down Mount Sukkertoppen into Longyearbyen, a town of 2,000 people, at 11:00 (09:00 GMT) after a fierce overnight storm.

Cars were overturned and wooden houses displaced from their foundations.

The rescue operation was carried out in darkness, as Svalbard sees no direct sun from late November to mid-February.

A local resident in his 40s was declared dead and nine other people, including four children, were taken to hospital, where three are in serious condition.

"It's complete chaos here," Kine Bakkeli told Norway's NRK television after she had managed to escape from her house through a window.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Houses and cars were damaged by the avalanche
Image copyright AFP
Image caption After several hours of rescue efforts, the authorities said everyone had been accounted for

Another woman was rescued from deep snow after she banged on an oven to alert rescue workers.

Some 40 houses were evacuated as a safety precaution and the authorities are confident they have now accounted for all residents.

Svalbard had been hit by a severe storm on Friday night, with winds of up to 95km/h (60mph), which blew the roof off the community's school, depositing it on a nearby sports pitch.

The airport was closed for some hours, but by Saturday afternoon it had reopened.

Most people in Svalbard live in Longyearbyen, the world's most northerly town, on the territory which lies 800km (500 miles) north of the Norwegian mainland.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The avalanche hit after a fierce overnight storm

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