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Norway landslide: Swedes join search for 10 missing in Ask ravine

Publishedduration39 minutes agomedia captionAerial footage shows the scale of the landslideSwedish rescuers and Norwegian dog handlers have begun a risky ground search for 10 people missing after a hillside collapsed in Norway. It is snowing heavily in Ask, a village 25km (15 miles) north-east of the capital Oslo, where homes toppled into a giant chasm…

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media captionAerial footage shows the scale of the landslide

Swedish rescuers and Norwegian dog handlers have begun a risky ground search for 10 people missing after a hillside collapsed in Norway.

It is snowing heavily in Ask, a village 25km (15 miles) north-east of the capital Oslo, where homes toppled into a giant chasm caused by flowing mud.

Police commander Roy Alkvist said one or two houses in the chasm appeared safe for rescuers to potentially enter.

Helicopters have been searching the scene of Wednesday’s landslide.

A missing dog was rescued on Thursday.

In Friday’s operation the Swedish rescuers and their Norwegian colleagues were preparing an army vehicle called a “paver”, which has a giant steel bridge on which rescuers can move.

However, conditions were not yet good enough for the 50-tonne machine to be deployed.

image copyrightAFP

image captionThe ground remains very unstable in what remains of Ask

Instead, the rescuers began moving into the danger zone on styrofoam boards. The bright orange boards were laid down on the mud in a domino-effect as rescuers tried to reach one of the wrecked homes.

It is a race against time, as the rescuers also have few hours of daylight in the Norwegian winter. Medics and geologists were reportedly part of the ground rescue team and police said they still had hope that survivors could be found.

About 1,000 people have been evacuated from Gjerdrum county, which contains Ask village. Dozens more were moved out of their homes on New Year’s Eve.

Until Friday rescuers had used drones and helicopters with heat-seeking cameras to look for signs of life beneath the debris.

Although police have not given details of the 10 missing, they are believed to include men, women and children.

Among them is a woman who was talking to her husband on the phone while walking the dog when the line went dead, according to Bergens Tidende newspaper.

Further reports say a couple and their small child are also missing, as well as a woman in her 50s and her adult son.

image copyrightforsvaret.no

image captionThe plan is to deploy a Norwegian army bridge-laying vehicle like this

More than 30 homes have been destroyed, but officials say more could be lost as the edges of the crater left by the landslide are still breaking away.

The conditions have proved challenging, with temperatures dropping to -1C (30F) and the clay ground proving too unstable for emergency workers to walk on.

image copyrightAFP

image captionA helicopter lowers a rescue dog during Thursday’s search

The landslide began early on Wednesday, with residents calling emergency services and telling them that their houses were moving, police said.

“There were two massive tremors that lasted for a long while and I assumed it was snow being cleared or something like that,” Oeystein Gjerdrum, 68, told broadcaster NRK.

“Then the power suddenly went out, and a neighbour came to the door and said we needed to evacuate, so I woke up my three grandchildren and told them to get dressed quickly.”

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A spokeswoman for the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) told AFP that the landslide was a so-called “quick clay slide” measuring about 300m by 700m (985ft by 2,300ft).

“This is the largest landslide in recent times in Norway, considering the number of houses involved and the number of evacuees,” Laila Hoivik said.

Quick clay is a kind of clay found in Norway and Sweden that can collapse and behave as a fluid when it comes under stress.

Broadcaster NRK said heavy rainfall may have made the soil unstable, but questions have since emerged over why construction was permitted in the area.

A 2005 geological survey labelled the area as at high risk of landslides, according to a report seen by the broadcaster TV2. Despite this, the homes were built three years later in 2008.

media captionAnother landslide struck in the Norwegian town of Alta in June

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