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Norwegians prepare for more flooding and landslides after days of heavy rain

Areas of southeast Norway were evacuated and residents braced for more landslides and flooding as rivers swollen by days of heavy rain carried large amounts of water through the mountainous landscape on Thursday.

People living near waterways were moved to safety, taking their belongings from their homes and moving their cars to higher ground, while helicopters were on standby to help move people out of remote areas.

The Begna river, which runs through the town of Honefossen, had burst its banks and because of fear of landslides, the municipality announced an evacuation.

The Red Cross and the civil defence sent around 200 people to a nearby hotel by bus.

A local resident wrote online: “Darn, this is bad. I don’t think everyone understands how much water we are talking about. The peak is far from being reached. More is to come when the locks are opened.”

Authorities did not provide a nationwide count of evacuees, but according to Norwegian broadcaster NRK, the figure was up to at least 4,000.

The initial damage estimate was at €88 million, according to the Norwegian Natural Perils Pool, an insurance regulator.

“We expect far more damage reports in the future,” spokeswoman Stine Neverdal said, stressing the figures were preliminary.

Although the rain has mostly stopped, authorities say the flooding is expected to continue until at least Friday. Major roads and train lines are likely to be closed for days.

The catastrophic flooding, among the worst in the Scandinavian country in recent years, was triggered by days of heavy summer rain.

In 2020, 10 people were killed in a landslide in Ask, a village north of Oslo, in one of the worst landslides in Norway’s modern history. A landslide in the central part of the country in 1893 killed 116 people.

On Wednesday, a dam partially burst after Norway’s largest river spilt over and broke through the structure. Downstream communities had been evacuated and no casualties were reported.

Police said the situation at the dam was being continuously assessed but, as of Thursday, it no longer deemed critical.

There had been fears that a train bridge over the Lagen River would collapse because of the large volume of water, but railway officials said that it was stable. All traffic across the bridge was halted earlier in the week.

For the first time in 35 years, the popular Peer Gynt open-air festival will end two days early because of the flooding, its chief executive, May Brit Stove, announced.

The nine-day event features dance, concerts, art exhibitions and more and is held in a picturesque valley near Lillehammer, which hosted the 1994 Winter Olympics. The festival has been held since 1989.

Storm Hans battered northern Europe starting on Monday, causing damage and disruptions in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia.

Ferries were cancelled, flights were delayed, roads and streets were flooded, people were injured by falling branches and thousands remained without electricity. Southeastern Norway was particularly badly affected.

Norway’s acting police chief Hakon Skulstad said “the situation is serious and constantly developing”.

On Thursday, the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate raised its warning for floods and landslides from orange to red for parts of southern Norway.

Norway’s King Harald and Queen Sonja are to visit some of the affected areas on Friday while Crown Prince Haakon, who is heir to the throne, will pay a visit on Saturday.

In neighbouring Sweden, parts of the harbour in the second-largest city, Gothenburg, remained flooded. Roads and train lines in the area were closed due to the water.

The Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute issued orange warnings – the second highest level – because of a risk of flooding in parts of the country along the border with Norway. – AP


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