Briefs from Svalbardposten for the week of April 11, 2017

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Spate of accidents, small avalanches causes for caution during sunny and busy Easter Week
Several accidents resulting in injuries and at least two small avalanches have occurred in the past few days as Svalbard enters one of its busiest weeks for outdoor excursions, according to The Governor of Svalbard and other officials. Three snowmobilers were hospitalized after separate accidents Wednesday, including a man in his 40s and a woman in her 30s near the outskirts of town entering Adventdalen, and a person in Barentsburg transported by helicopter to Longyearbyen Hospital. Another rescued occurred when a Longyearbyen resident in their 30s slipped and fell while hiking on Sukkertoppen at about 8 p.m. Sunday. The person was flown to University Hospital Northern Norway in Tromsø with moderate injuries. Also occurring on Sunday at about 3:20 p.m. was a small avalanche at Linken above Hiorthhamn, although officials said nobody was trapped in that slide or another one a few days later on a snowmobile trail on Larsbreen. There is currently a Level-Two (“moderate”) risk of avalanches in the Longyearbyen area this week, according to The Norwegian Avalanche Centre.

NVE: Avalanche warnings upgraded as report is drafted
Improvements have been made to an avalanche warning system that was heavily criticized following a snowslide Feb. 21 that destroyed two apartment buildings, according to The Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate. “We have improved the routines and are involving more professionals when necessary,” said Knut Hoseth, acting northern region director for the agency. “We are taking into account some additional developments, developing more precautions and greater safety margins.” The Governor of Svalbard decided not to evacuate homes near Sukkertoppen hours before the avalanche occurred, based on advise from experts at the directorate who stated there wasn’t enough at-risk snow to reach structures. The residences closest to the mountain are now evacuated at least until the snow is gone while local and national policymakers determine the long-term future of the area. A report by the directorate evaluating official response to the avalanche is scheduled for release this month.

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