SUMMER SHELTER: Evacuation order for homes in avalanche-prone area of Lia lifted – but will new snow barriers be finished before winter returns?


An evacuation order for dozens of residences in a high-risk avalanche zone that’s been in effect since Dec. 22 has been lifted, but will likely be reinstated when significant snowfall returns to Longyearbyen unless snow barriers currently under construction are securely in place, The Governor of Svalbard announced Thursday.

“The decision on enforcing the ban will then be maintained as long as there is snow in the area, unless protective measures for the buildings in question have been implemented,” the statement notes.

The evacuation of homes closest to Sukkertoppen in the Lia neighborhood was originally ordered in February of 2017 after an avalanche destroyed two apartment buildings there. As with this year, the ban was temporarily lifted when the snow vanished from the mountains.

The order has contributed to a critical housing shortage that has resulted in the Norwegian government approving more than 200 million kroner for new housing, infrastructure and snow barriers. But many property owners upset about being able to live in and/or rent residences part-time are still facing the possibility of losing their homes altogether since the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate issued a report earlier this year stating there is no practical way to protect many of the at-risk areas.