AVALANCHE UPDATE: Child becomes storm’s second fatality after dying of injuries Sunday; evacuations extended indefinitely


A child caught in Saturday’s avalanche died Sunday morning at the University Hospital in North Norway from injuries sustained in the incident, officials said Sunday evening.

The child was one of two trapped in one of the ten homes buried by the avalanche that also killed Longyearbyen School teacher Atle Husby. Hospital officials are not releasing the child’s age and gender.

The child’s sibling is also at the hospital in Tromsø, but with less serious injuries.

“An unimaginable effort was made to rescue them from the house,” Svalbard Gov. Kjerstin Askholt said during a press conference Sunday.

Svalbard Church Priest Leif Magne Helgesen told Verdens Gang the children’s parents were at the hospital since yesterday and are getting support there.

“There is a double tragedy in what is happening now that has a child passed away,” he said. “We could not afford to lose one, now we’ve lost two.”

About 180 residents were forced to evacuate their homes due to the risk of additional avalanches. Two experts surveyed the area Sunday afternoon and Askholt said Sunday evening the evacuation period is being extended indefinitely.

“We have had a very unique weather situation,” she said. “The wind and precipitation must subside before we can be absolutely certain. The positive is that the forecasts are promising, but we can not lift an evacuation based on forecasts.”

The evacuated zones are divided into three areas based on risk, Askholt said. Officials are evaluating whether they might allow some groups of residents back into their homes briefly to gather necessary belongings.