It was a miracle that no more lives were lost, says avalanche expert. The saving grace appears to be because the houses were built on stilts.
A group of experts from the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI) led by senior engineer Kjetil Bratt Lien toured the area hit by the large avalanche in Longyearbyen on Saturday.
The avalanche moved one house 80 meters. It was a miracle that no more lives were lost, said Lien.
A combination of snow and strong winds in hurricane force winds apparently triggered the several-hundred-meters-wide avalanche that hit several rows of colorful houses.
Currently, clean up attempts seem to be going smoothly, but avalanche danger is not over, says Lien. It’s snowing and blowing still, so we are not out of danger.
Approximately 180 people have been evacuated will not come home to salvage their belongings.
The devastation would probably have been worse if not houses had yielded.
To avoid damage to the permafrost, the houses had been built on stilts. According to senior geologist Frode Sandersen at NGI, that is an important reason why some of the houses slid down the mountainside without being crushed. If the houses had been better founded, they would have been completely shattered, says Sandersen.
This Norwegian website has two video’s showing the damage.
Two were killed in the frenzied devastation Saturday morning.
A child who was seriously injured in the avalanche died on Sunday.
Thanks to Argiris Diamantis for these links