Three people remained missing after the disaster in the village of Ask, about 30 miles northeast of Oslo, the police said. Officials said the landslide on Wednesday, which led to the evacuation of people from the area, was related to quick clay, which can collapse into a liquid state when overloaded.
“We are in despair over the terrible and tragic outcome of this slide,” Anders Ostensen, the mayor of Gjerdrum, the local municipality that includes Ask, said to reporters on Monday. “The situation is still unreal to us, but we are trying to turn things around, and we’ve started the work of trying to get back to normality.”
About 1,000 people were evacuated from Ask after clay ground in the area collapsed, swallowing at least seven homes in flows of mud and injuring 10 people.
The military and firefighters are helping with rescue efforts, which have been complicated by short days with limited daylight, cold weather and the difficulty of navigating the clay, which remains unstable in places.
Six of the victims, whose bodies were recovered on Friday and in the past few days, have been identified. They are: Eirik Gronolen, 31, Lisbeth Neraas, 54 and her son Marius Brustad, 29, and Bjorn-Ivar Grymyr Jansen, 40, Charlot Grymyr Jansen, 31, and their 2-year-old daughter, Alma Grymyr Jansen. One body found has not yet been named.
Still missing are three others.
King Harald V and Queen Sonja on Sunday visited the site of the landslide and met rescue personnel, local volunteers and survivors. “I’m having trouble finding something to say, because it’s absolutely horrible,” King Harald said. They thanked rescuers and said they were impressed by the relief efforts.
As of Monday, it was unclear precisely what caused the clay to collapse.
“We will have to evaluate what happened during the construction in Gjerdrum,” Tina Bru, Norway’s minister of energy and oil, told NRK on Monday. “It is natural to go over the rules and see what we can learn from this, so that anything like this will not happen again.”
Though landslides in Norway are relatively rare, another in the northern region of the country in June swept at least eight buildings into the sea but did not injure anyone. More than 110,000 people in Norway live in areas where there may be risk of such landslides, according to government figures. The village of Ask was in a high-risk area for such landslides, but officials had not deemed the area unsafe for construction.
The Norwegian Geotechnical Institute, an independent research center that has assessed the region for landslide risks for developers and the government, has published reports detailing its investigations in the region from 2003 to 2007. It had advised that a series of measures were needed to stabilize the area. The institute said it was reviewing documents related to the disaster, and the police will be starting an investigation.
Developers told local media that they had followed the recommendations from the institute, which included removing soil from higher ground to reduce loads on clay terrain and protections against erosion, during construction in Ask.
Water and power are still out in the area, local officials said.
“The village has suffered quite a tough blow,” said John-Magnus Restad, a pilot who lives with his wife and son about half a mile north of the site. He added that they were not sure they would stay in Ask. Though they knew the area lay on quick clay, he said he never believed “a slide of this proportion could happen.”
But the decision was clear for Trine Johnsgard, 60, who said she and her husband, Kjetil Johnsgard, who live about 80 yards away from the gorge, were lucky to escape their home with their dog Linus, a wallet and one cellphone.
“I hope we don’t have to move back, because we don’t dare to,” Ms. Johnsgard told the newspaper VG, adding that she worried about the value of her home, which is on a street called Nystulia, where many of the missing had lived. “No one wants to move to Nystulia now.”