Norway prepares for more evacuations as river levels keep rising


Authorities were on standby to evacuate more people in southeastern Norway on Friday, where huge amounts of water, littered with broken trees, debris and trash, thundered down the usually serene rivers after days of torrential rain.

The level of water in swollen rivers and lakes continued to grow despite two days of dry but overcast weather, with houses abandoned in flooded areas, cars coated in mud and camping sites swamped.

One of the most affected places was the town of Hønefoss, where the Begna river had gone over its banks and authorities were considering moving more people downstream for fear of landslides. A total of 3,600 people are estimated to have been already evacuated, the Norwegian news agency NTB said.

Water flows through a broken dam in Norway.
Water breaks through the dam at Braskereidfoss, Norway, in this photo taken Wednesday. Authorities say the dam partially burst following days of heavy rain that triggered landslides and flooding in the mountainous southern parts of the country. Communities downstream already had been evacuated. (Cornelius Poppe/NTB Scanpix/The Associated Press)

“We constantly try to think a few steps ahead. We are ready to press an even bigger red button,” Magnus Nilholm, a local emergency manager in the Hønefoss region, told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

Ivar Berthling of Norway’s Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) told NTB that the water levels around Hønefoss, which is about 40 kilometres north of Oslo, were expected to continue rising and remain high until at least Monday. Up north, near the Strondafjorden lake, the water level was reported to be 2.5 metres above normal.

WATCH | Heavy rains cause partial dam collapse, flooding in Norway: 

Heavy rains cause partial dam collapse, flooding in Norway

“We are still facing critical days,” the Ringerike municipality, where Hønefoss lies, said in a statement.

“Being evacuated is a dramatic event in everyday life, especially for children,” Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said as he visited one of the affected areas on Friday.

Norway’s 86-year-old King Harald V was given a briefing at the NVE headquarters, west of Oslo, on Friday, while his wife, Queen Sonja, was seen writing on a notepad. The aging king later met with volunteers who have worked with those evacuated.

Storms lash northern Europe

Storm Hans on Monday and Tuesday battered northern Europe, leading to transportation disruption, flooding and power cuts across the Nordic and Baltic region. At least three people were killed.

Southeastern Norway was particularly badly affected. A hydroelectric river dam collapsed Wednesday as water forced its way through. Earlier this week, a train derailed in neighbouring Sweden when a railway embankment was washed away by floods.

Norwegian authorities did not provide a nationwide count of evacuees. According to a rough estimate, damage could so far amount to 1 billion Norwegian kroner (about $129.6 million Cdn).

A river floods part of Honefoss, in southeastern Norway.
The community of Hønefoss was hit by floodwater, in this image taken Friday. (NTB/The Associated Press)

Also Friday, authorities urged people not to check on their cabins in the devastated part of the country.

“Hytte,” the Norwegian word for cabin, is part of the Scandinavian country’s outdoor lifestyle, and thousands of Norwegians have access to a cabin — some in the mountains, others by the coast — that they use as a retreat from everyday life.

“We fully understand that many cabin owners are anxious about the cabin’s condition after the ravages of the extreme weather, but we hope people will abstain now from making the trip just to check,” Lars Aune of the National Police said in a statement. “This is to avoid unnecessary strain on exposed roads.”

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