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1 Dead in Avalanche in Norway's Remote Arctic Svalbard Archipelago

  • Associated Press

Search crew work in an area hit by an avalanche in Longyearbyen, the main settlement of the remote Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, Norway, Dec. 19, 2015.

Search crew work in an area hit by an avalanche in Longyearbyen, the main settlement of the remote Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, Norway, Dec. 19, 2015.

An avalanche smashed into houses on the remote Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and authorities said one person has been killed and nine others injured.

Hospital spokesman Per-Christian Johansen said a local man is dead and nine other people have been hospitalized, including four children. He said two children and one adult are in serious condition.

The avalanche hit a day after a huge storm that the local daily Svalbardposten said had winds up to 95 kph (60 mph) and was the worst in 30 years.

The avalanche tumbled down about 11 a.m. local time Saturday from Sukkertoppen mountain, which dominates Longyearbyen, the main settlement on Svalbard. Dozens of houses at the foot of Sukkertoppen were protectively evacuated, said Tone Hertzberg, a spokeswoman for the governor of Svalbard.

Hertzberg said "it would be logical" to assume the avalanche was connected to a storm that hit the Svalbard archipelago late Friday.

"People have been taken to the hospital and there are still people unaccounted for. Right now we still have no overview of the situation. It will take hours, many hours, before we do," Hertzberg told the AP by telephone.

About 100 people, including emergency workers and volunteers, were helping out following the avalanche. The archipelago's hospital requested extra medical staff from the largest nearby hospital in Tromsoe, on the Norwegian mainland, and rescue teams with search dogs were on their way.

The fierce storm also ripped off a school's roof, sending it flying onto a soccer field. The airport in Longyearbyen was closed Friday but was expected to reopen later Saturday.

Svalbard, which sits more than 800 kilometers (500 miles) north of the Norwegian mainland, is known for its stunning views of snow-covered mountains, fjords and glaciers. Located midway between continental Norway and the North Pole, the archipelago has about 2,600 residents.

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