Rescue crews work in the area at Ask in Gjerdrum, Saturday Jan. 2, 2021, after a massive landslide smashed into a residential area near the Norwegian capital on Wednesday. The landslide cut across a road through Ask, leaving a deep ravine that cars could not pass. (Tor Erik Schroeder/NTB via AP)

2nd body found after landslide in Norway; 8 still missing

HELSINKI — Rescue teams searching for survivors four days after a landslide carried away homes in a Norwegian village found no signs of life Saturday amid the ruined buildings and debris.

Two bodies have been recovered but searchers are still looking for eight more people believed to be missing. The landslide in the village of Ask is the worst in modern Norwegian history and has shocked citizens in the Nordic nation.

Ground search teams patrolled with dogs as helicopters and drones with heat-detecting cameras flew above amid harsh winter conditions on the ravaged hillside in Ask, a village of 5,000 people 25 kilometres (16 miles) northeast of Oslo.

Norwegian police pledged not to scale down the search even though a rescue team from neighbouring Sweden has already returned home.

Local police chief Ida Melbo Oeystese said it may still be possible to find survivors in air pockets inside the destroyed buildings.

“Medically, you can survive for several days if you have air,” she told reporters at a news conference.

By Saturday afternoon, a second body had been found after a first one was discovered on Friday. Only a Dalmatian dog has been rescued alive from the ruins so far.

Late Friday, Norwegian police published the names and birth years of the 10 people initially reported missing, including a 2-year-old child. Officials haven’t yet identified the two recovered bodies.

The landslide early Wednesday cut across a road through Ask, leaving a deep, crater-like ravine that cars could not pass. Photos and video footage showed dramatic scenes of buildings hanging on the edge of the ravine, which grew to be 700 metres (2,300 feet) long and 300 metres (1,000 feet) wide. At least nine buildings with over 30 apartments were destroyed.

The rescue operation is being hampered by the limited number of daylight hours in the area at this time of year and fears of further land erosion. The ground is fragile at the site and unlikely to hold the weight of rescue equipment, including a heavy vehicle from the Norwegian military.

Over 1,000 people have been evacuated, and officials said up to 1,500 people may be moved from the area amid fears of further landslides.

The exact cause of the accident is yet unknown but the Gjerdrum area is known for having a lot of quick clay, a form of clay that can change from solid to liquid form. Experts said the substance of the clay combined with excessive precipitation and the damp weather conditions typical for Norway may have contributed to the landslide.

Norwegian authorities in 2005 warned people not to construct residential buildings in the area, but houses were eventually built there later in the decade.

Spokeswoman Toril Hofshagen from Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate called the landslide unique in its destruction.

“Not since 1893 has there been a quick clay landslide of this dimension in Norway,” Hofshagen told Norwegian media on Saturday.

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