Thursday, May 23, 2013

Norway: Hundreds evacuated and damage spreads as flood waters rise

Neighbours were crying and hugging one another Thursday morning as they watched raging flood waters slam into their homes in Kvam, in the valley of Gudbrandsdalen. Nearly 300 homeowners were evacuated during the night, as were others farther south in Eidsvoll and in several other communities around southern Norway as rain and snowmelt turned rivers and creeks into uncontrollable torrents.

In Eidsvoll, northeast of Oslo, around 40 homeowners were told to leave their homes because of fears a dam further upslope would burst. Others were evacuated in the counties of Hedmark, Oppland, Buskerud and Telemark as officials categorized this year’s spring flooding as the worst since 1995, so far.

It may get even worse, with more rain predicted and more rapid melting of snow and ice at higher elevations. Instead of beginning to melt slowly at the end of winter, this year’s unusually cold spring kept the snow and ice frozen well into May. When temperatures suddenly soared last week, the annual run-off quickly turned into the gushing torrents now threatening so many areas that emergency crews were struggling to keep up with demand.