AVALANCHE UPDATE: NVE experts conducting snow checks throughout Wednesday; public update meeting at 8 p.m.


Update (2:34 p.m.): Svalbard Gov. Kjerstin Askholt said NVE experts are expected to conduct their snow assessment work until 6 p.m., after which the local emergency council will meet to determine if the evacuation order will be extended. She said it is possible the decision will be announced before the 8 p.m. public meeting at Kulturhuset.

Original story: Avalanche experts with the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) began assessing the snowpack on Sukkertoppen by helicopter and foot at midday Wednesday to determine the risk of further avalanches after the one that destroyed two apartment buildings Tuesday morning. A public meeting to update the situation is scheduled at 8 p.m. at Kulturhuset.

An evacuation order affecting more than 200 people in 92 residences beneath the mountain will remain in effect until the results are thoroughly analyzed, Svalbard Gov. Kjerstin Askholt told the Norwegian News Agency late Wednesday morning.

“When their work is done there will be a reassessment of the evacuation,” she said. “We must make a very careful assessment before we possibly can decide to terminate the evacuation.”

Askholt, NVE officials and others are being criticized by some residents for deciding not to evacuate buildings beneath the mountain early Tuesday morning following a storm, based on NVE’s assessment there wasn’t enough snow for an avalanche to reach buildings.