A house on the River Opo, Odda, during the recent floods. Photo: Marit Hommedal/NTB scanpix
Homes have been evacuated and people left stranded or homeless after major floods hit the west of Norway on Tuesday.
Worst hit have been the villages of Flåm, Voss and Odda, where transport links and roads have been closed and many buildings ruined in the floods.
In the village of Flåm in Sogn og Fjordane on Wednesday morning, two helicopters had to be called in to rescue 22 people who were stranded either in their homes or on land due to the high-level water flooding that led to the local river bursting its banks.
Rescue leader Andreas Bull said to NTB on Wednesday: “The Sea King helicopter sent from Florø has now returned to Sogndal where the crew is going to rest and where fuel will be tanked. The rescue helicopter from Sola will continue and still has a few more missions.”
“As the number of people needing to be rescued starts to reduce, so we rely on one helicopter being enough for the area,” said Bull.
The floods started on Tuesday and the Mayor of Flåm, Noralv Distad, said: “The evacuation was demanding.”
“The water level was rising very quickly on Tuesday. At first, we announced voluntary evacuation if anyone felt unsafe, but police decided tonight to make a full evacuation,” said the mayor.
The nearby Fretheim Hotel is being used as a refuge centre for evacuees.
The evacuation remains difficult as many local roads are impossible to use and at least two bridges stand under water.
In the municipality of Odda in Hordaland, five houses were taken by the flooding and their inhabitants evacuated.
Local roads have been closed as a result of the weather conditions. two tunnels in the area have been closed due to flooding. They are Bogetunnelen and the Vangstunnelen in Voss municipality.
The E16 is closed at Bulken, Gudvangen and the stretch of Flåm-Aurland. On riksvei (national road) 13, the road is closed at Sandvinvatnet, 3.5 kilometres south of Odda, and at Opo bridge. Also in Sogn og Fjordane many roads are closed due to the bad weather.
The Norwegian Public Roads Administration said: “People should keep away from the roads in the most exposed areas.”
They recommend people stay informed via traffic updates.
More people are at risk as the River Opo, running through the town, spilled its banks and a bridge collapsed under the heavy waters.
Morten Kronen of Hordaland police said to NTB: “The volume of water is so enormous that it's gouging out the ground under the houses. We have evacuated more than 30 people and luckily no one was hurt.”
There is a further danger from mudslides on the east side of the river and police had to evacuate 15 locals in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Many homes and vehicles have been lost in the flooding, and a gas station in Odda is at risk of the water dislodging the fuel tanks stored underground. The local fire department is monitoring the situation.
Kronen said: “The situation is far from being under control. The houses being taken by the river will soon come to a closed off bridge south in Odda, and we are paying close attention to the situation together with the army and the fire department.”
On Tuesday evening, preparations were made for an evacuation of Odda hospital after an oxygen tank was submerged in flood water. There was fear of an explosion and 18 patients at the hospital were close to being evacuated. The situation was quickly seen as no risk and the evacuation was cancelled.