NYBYEN EVACUATION CONTINUES UNTIL TUESDAY: Unstable snow slops after weekend storm, plus large avalanche Sunday, means fourth day of building and traffic ban; also upheld at Lia


An evacuation of the buildings along the mountainside of Nybyen and a traffic ban on the snow trail there, along with a similar access ban in Lia near downtown Longyearbyen, is being extended until at least Tuesday, The Governor of Svalbard announced after a midday assessment of slope conditions Monday.


A large avalanche at the northern end of Nybyen on Sunday came close to two cabins in the area mostly featuring tourist and student housing. Photo by The Governor of Svalbard.

“Based on professional avalanche assessments from Skred AS, the Governor has decided to maintain the evacuation and traffic ban in Nybyen, and the residence and traffic ban on the upper side of the buildings in Lia,” a statement from the governor’s office notes. “The snow conditions on the mountainsides must stabilize more before the evacuation, and traffic and residence bans, can be lifted. A new assessment will be made on Tuesday morning.”

About 80 people, mostly tourists and students in dorm housing, are affected by the evacuation, although city officials have stated all have been relocated in alternative locations.

Which isn’t to say some aren’t missing familiar and comfortable quarters.

“We are nothing but a tiny dot in this world,” wrote Khristin Aina Galang Grana, an employee at Gjestehuset 102, where most of the displaced tourists were staying, in a Facebook post Sunday. “We are still at Haugen Pensjonat [a similar hostel-type facility] at the moment with some of our guests since we are still not allowed to go back…A thought just came to me today, that nature is big and can be wild, it can change a thing in a snap, and if it happens we really cannot do anything about it. I just want to go back to Gjestehuset 102 soon – by soon I mean tomorrow.”

Which, not surprisingly, isn’t happening after a “major avalanche” occurred in Nybyen on Sunday adjacent to the historic Mine 2B, narrowly missing two cabins below. At least three other avalanches of notable size were reported in the vicinity of Longyearbyen, although nobody was caught in them.

A Level Three (“Considerable”) risk level is forecast through Tuesday by the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate.