At least ten people were injured after a landslide in Norway’s southeastern town of Ask prompted the evacuation of some 700 residents.

Destroyed houses are seen in a crater left behind by a landslide in the town of Ask, Gjerdrum county, some 40 km northeast of the capital Oslo, on December 30, 2020.
Destroyed houses are seen in a crater left behind by a landslide in the town of Ask, Gjerdrum county, some 40 km northeast of the capital Oslo, on December 30, 2020. (FREDRIK HAGEN / NTB / AFP)

A landslide has smashed into a residential area near the Norwegian capital, injuring at least 10 people, leaving 21 unaccounted for and destroying several homes, authorities said. 

Some 700 people were evacuated amid fears of further landslides and the municipality warned as many as 1,500 could need to leave the region out of safety concerns.

Norwegian police were alerted at 4 am to the slide in the village of Ask, in the municipality of Gjerdrum, some 20 kilometres (12 miles) northeast of Oslo.

The landslide cut across a road through Ask, leaving a deep ravine that cars could not pass. Video footage showed dramatic scenes including one house falling into the ravine. Photos showed at least eight homes destroyed.

Police spokesman Roger Pettersen told Norwegian media there were no reports of missing, but officials could not rule out the possibility of people in collapsed buildings. He said some 21 people registered to live in the area are uncounted for.

“The 21 people may have evacuated themselves but may also still be in the landslide area,” Pettersen told news agency NTB.

One of the injured was seriously hurt, while nine had lighter injuries. Weather at the time was reported to be challenging, with snow and full winter conditions.

Norwegian Rescue Service image taken from a rescue helicopter shows destroyed houses in a crater left behind by a landslide in the town of Ask, Gjerdrum county on December 30, 2020.
Norwegian Rescue Service image taken from a rescue helicopter shows destroyed houses in a crater left behind by a landslide in the town of Ask, Gjerdrum county on December 30, 2020. (STRINGER / AFP / HRS 330 SKVADRONEN / AFP)

Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who travelled to the village of around 1,000 people on Wednesday, described the landslide as "one of the largest" the country had seen.

"It's a dramatic experience to be here," Solberg told reporters, expressing particular concern for those still missing.

"The situation is still so unstable with the mud that it's not yet possible to do anything other than helicopter rescues," she added.

In a separate statement, she called the disaster “probably one of the biggest landslides we have had, and with the biggest consequences.”

“It hurts to see how the forces of nature have ravaged Gjerdrum. My thoughts go to all those affected by the landslide. Now it is important that the emergency services get their job done,” Solberg tweeted.

Further slides unlikely

The area where Ask is located is known for having a lot of so-called quick clay, a form of clay that can change from solid to liquid form. There have been previous landslides reported there.

Quick clay is a sort of clay found in Norway and Sweden that can collapse and turn to fluid when overstressed.

Ask is home to some 5,000 people.

Norway's king Harald said in a statement that the accident had "made a deep impression on me and my family.

"My thoughts are with everyone affected, the injured, those who lost their homes and are now living in fear and uncertainty of the full extent of the disaster," he said.

Source: AP