ALERT – EVACUATION IN NYBYEN ORDERED BY 8 A.M. SATURDAY: Mountainside buildings at risk of avalanche due to storm; traffic also banned in part of Lia

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Update 12:30 p.m.: All people affected by the evacuation have been moved to new accommodations and the situation will be reassessed at 4 p.m., according to city officials. An avalanche 400 meters long and 300 meters wide was observed by a tour group in Fritham at about 9 a.m. Saturday, but nobody was caught, according to The Governor of Svalbard

Original story: An evacuation of the mountainside buildings in Nybyen was ordered Friday night by The Governor of Svalbard due to snow and forecast weather conditions that present a high avalanche risk. The evacuation must be completed by 8 a.m. Saturday.

About 80 people – primarily post-high school students plus some tourists – are affected by the evacuation.

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A map shows where traffic is banned in a section of the Lia neighborhood near the center of Longyearbyen. Map by The Governor of Svalbard.

“A residence and traffic ban will be introduced in the area,” a statement by the governor’s office notes, adding “the governor is also introducing a ban on traffic and entry in an area on the upper side of the buildings in Lia.”

The latter closure means the snowmobile trail from the south side of the pointed-roof houses in the neighborhood to Vannledningsdalen is closed. The same applies to the snowmobile trail on the upper side of the road in Nybyen.

“Strong southeasterly winds and snow are expected on Saturday and Sunday,” the governor notes. “In addition, there is some snow on the mountainsides. There may be a danger of cornice fall that can trigger larger avalanches that can reach the buildings on the east side of the road in Nybyen. Avalanches can also occur on the mountainside.”

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An avalanche at Fritham was reported Saturday morning. Photo by The Governor of Svalbard.

“The weather forecasts are uncertain and the governor, together with Longyearbyen local council and Skred AS, will follow the situation,” Lt. Gov Sølvi Elvedahl said. “A new assessment will be made by 4 p.m. on Saturday.”

There is also a significant avalanche risk in other area terrain. Forecasts and avalanche reports can be followed in real time at www.varsom.no.

Evacuees unable to arrange their own housing can contact the Longyearbyen local council at 9157 7886.