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Several missing after avalanche hits Norway's remote Arctic Svalbard archipelago

Published 19/12/2015

Several people are missing after an avalanche in Norway
Several people are missing after an avalanche in Norway

Several people are missing after an avalanche smashed into 10 houses on Norway's remote Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, authorities said.

Eight people were taken to hospital after the avalanche tumbled down from Sukkertoppen mountain, which dominates Longyearbyen, the main settlement on Svalbard, at about 11am on Saturday.

Dozens of houses at the foot of Sukkertoppen were evacuated as a precaution, said Tone Hertzberg, a spokeswoman for the governor of Svalbard.

Three children were in a serious condition and five adults were slightly injured by the avalanche, hospital spokeswoman Marit Einejord told the Associated Press.

Ms Hertzberg said "it would be logical" to assume the avalanche was connected to a storm which hit the Svalbard archipelago late on Friday. Local daily Svalbardposten said the storm, with winds up to 60mph (95kph), was the worst in 30 years.

"People have been taken to the hospital and there are still people unaccounted for. Right now we still have no overview of the situation. It will take hours, many hours, before we do," Ms Hertzberg told the AP by telephone.

About 100 people, including emergency workers and volunteers, were helping out following the avalanche. The archipelago's hospital requested extra medical staff from the largest nearby hospital in Tromsoe, on the Norwegian mainland, and rescue teams with search dogs were on their way.

The fierce storm also ripped off a school's roof, sending it flying on to a soccer field. The airport in Longyearbyen was closed on Friday but was expected to reopen later on Saturday.

Svalbard, which lies more than 500 miles (800km) north of the Norwegian mainland, is known for its stunning views of snow-covered mountains, fjords and glaciers. Located midway between continental Norway and the North Pole, the archipelago has about 2,600 residents.

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