21 missing, buildings hang over edge of crater after Norway landslide

Ten people were hurt, one of them critically, and 21 people remained unaccounted for after a landslide in southern Norway swept away more than a dozen buildings in the early hours of Wednesday, police said.

The landslide struck a residential area in the municipality of Gjerdrum, some 30 kilometres north of the capital Oslo.

Photos of the site showed a large crater with destroyed buildings at the bottom of it. Other buildings hung on the edges of the crater.

Helicopters hovered over the area, at times lowering emergency responders toward the debris of collapsed houses, TV footage showed.

Around 700 people have been evacuated from the area so far, police said.

“I was woken by the sound of a helicopter flying overhead and then the police called, telling us to evacuate,” Kjetil Aamann, whose house is located just 50 metres from the edge of the landslide, told broadcaster TV2.

The missing people were from homes in the innermost area of the landslide, but it was not immediately clear whether they had been trapped in their houses, were away at the time or had managed to escape, the police said.

The area is not stable and for now can only be accessed via helicopter, a police representative said. (Frederik Hagen/NTB/AFP/Getty Images)

“This should have been a New Year’s weekend where we should have had peace and quiet and maybe should have worried most about COVID-19 and not whether we have missing persons from a landslide,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg told TV2.

Solberg was due to visit Gjerdrum later on Wednesday.

The area remains unstable for now and can only be accessed by helicopter, said Roger Pettersen, head of the police operation at the site.

Masses of earth are continuing to move in what has been one of the largest clay slides in recent Norwegian history, Torild Hofshagen, regional head of the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate, told a news conference.

Southern Norway has seen large amounts of precipitation in recent days, which may have caused the clay soil prevalent in the area to shift, broadcaster NRK said.

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