Tunnel fire victims to be sent home today

The majority of the 65 people hospitalised in the Gudavanga Tunnel fire will be sent home today after undergoing a final health check, Noralv Distad, the crisis leader for the local Aurland Kommune, has told The Local.

Tunnel fire victims to be sent home today
Gudavanga Tunnel on Monday. Photo: Arne Med/NTB/Scanpix
"Most of them will leave the hospitals today, but they have to have a total check-up this morning," he said. "No one is burnt. It is all because they have inhaled the smoke. It’s the breathing that’s the problem, the lungs." 
The six most seriously wounded victims, who are all patients at Bergen's Haukeland hospital, will remain under care for some further days. Twenty six of the victims were Chinese tourists, aged between nine and 71 years old. 
Police received reports of a fire in the eleven kilometre Gudavanga Tunnel, Norway's second longest, at 12.10pm yesterday. 
By 1pm, the emergency services, which included six helicopters, hundreds of firemen, and ten police patrols, had evacuated all of the 80 people inside. 
The fire has been linked to an explosion in the trailer of a Polish truck, which caused a blaze about three and a half kilometres into the tunnel. 
The thick black smoke that billowed out cut visibility to almost nothing along an eight kilometre stretch, causing minor collisions and making breathing difficult.
It emerged this morning that the emergency communications system in the tunnel also failed, forcing police and fire services to use mobile phones and walkie talkies to keep in touch with each other and talk to those trapped in their cars. 
Those inside the tunnel were advised to remain sitting in their cars and to cover their noses and mouths with towels.  The most seriously injured were those that ignored the warning and left their vehicles, fully exposing their lungs to the caustic smoke. 
"It was just luck that nobody died,"  Arvid Gilje, head of the Aurland fire services, told TV 2. "We could just as easily have had 40 fatalities. It was luck and skill." 
"I want to stress the quite unique job all the people from the rescue team did and also the volunteers from the Red Cross," Distad said. 

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Norwegian police end emergency carrying of arms

The temporary arming of all police in Norway, ordered after an attack in Kongsberg left five dead, ended on Friday morning. 

Police in Norway will no longer be armed after the temporary order was dropped. Pictured is a police van in Oslo.
Police in Norway will no longer be armed after the temporary order was dropped. Pictured is a police van in Oslo. Photo by David Hall on Flickr.

The order for all police in Norway to be armed following an attack in Kongsberg last week was lifted on Friday morning. 

The police said in a statement Friday that, based on the information it had received from police security service PST, there was no longer any basis for maintaining the national armament order. 

“Norwegian police are basically unarmed in daily service, with firearms being stored in police vehicles, and police can be armed in connection with specific missions when needed. In that sense, we are now moving to a normal situation,” Tone Vangen, emergency preparedness director for the police, said in a statement

The police had been armed since last Wednesday following the incident in Kongsberg where Danish citizen Espen Andersen Bråthen killed five with an undisclosed sharp object and shot at police with a bow and arrow.

During police questioning, Bråthen confessed to the killings and to wounding three others. 

Police said earlier this week that the victims were chosen at random. The Danish citizen was undergoing a psychiatric evaluation, which is necessary to determine whether Bråthen can be held legally responsible for his actions.

The 37-year-old had previously announced publicly that he had converted to Islam and police initially reported that there had been fears of radicalisation. 

But police later said that mental illness was to be considered the primary motive for the attack. 

 “As far as motive is concerned, illness remains the main hypothesis. And as far as conversion to Islam is concerned, this hypothesis is weakened,” police inspector Per Thomas Omholt said to reporters earlier this week.