Avalanche in Longyearbyen 21 February 2017

Top image: The buildings that were hit by the avalanche. Photo: Inger Lise Næss/UNIS

Just before noon on Tuesday 21 February 2017 an avalanche destroyed two apartment buildings in the middle of Longyearbyen. No one was injured in the avalanche, but parts of the town are now under evacuation.

21 February 2017
Press release from the University Centre in Svalbard

During the night and early Tuesday morning there were near gale force winds and snow drift sweeping the western part of Spitsbergen, resulting in an almost complete whiteout. Shortly before noon Tuesday 21 February an avalanche from the mountain Sukkertoppen in the middle of Longyearbyen hit two apartment houses in Vei 228 and destroyed them. Fortunately no one was injured and all people in the buildings are accounted for.

In the aftermath of the avalanche, the Governor of Svalbard ordered evacuations of parts of the town. As the weather is calming down, it is expected that the evacuation will be lifted. This evacuation affects a few of our staff members and students who live in private accommodations in the evacuated area, but they have been given temporary housing through UNIS.

Avalanche experts are currently on site in Longyearbyen and so far there is no indication that other areas in town need to be evacuated. The area of Nybyen, where the majority of UNIS students live, is still regarded as safe. Avalanche experts have evaluated the situation Tuesday afternoon, both from helicopter and from the ground, and there is no reason to believe that the situation will change in the coming days.

UNIS is monitoring the situation closely and we are constantly in touch with the authorities regarding the situation.
A great number of volunteers appeared on site shortly after the alarm was raised Tuesday morning, and many of them were UNIS students and staff.  We want to extend our gratitude to all who reacted immediately and came to help.

Updates and news about the current situation can be found here:

The Governor of Svalbard
Svalbardposten (newspaper in Norwegian)
Icepeople.net (newspaper in English)

Press releases