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'I have seen things a 16-year-old should not see'

Amalie Henriksen retrieved a few of her belongings in a matter of minutes. The house she has lived in since she was two years old is now evacuated due to the danger of more snow slides. FOTO: Christopher Engås

'I have seen things a 16-year-old should not see'

'We ran over and saw the top row of houses standing right up against the railing below. We realized then that there had been an avalanche.'

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31.12.2015 kl 21:17

Amalie Henriksen and her mother were evacuated early on Dec. 20 from Vei 228. The next day she was allowed into the house to get her most important belongings. The house is apparently unharmed, but the surroundings bear the heavy scars from the violent avalanche.

"I don't know if our house will be standing when we come back again," she said. "And regardless it will affect me and us. I've lived in the house since I was two years old and become accustomed to the surroundings. Now the topmost row of houses is missing."

Shocking sight

Just before the avalanche Saturday, Amalie had spoken with a neighbor through the window. They saw that it had snowed a lot and wondered if they could get out of their houses. It was possible, but the sight that greeted them was shocking.

"The slide happened between when we stood and talked and when I got out," she said. "I did not hear a sound. When I came out with the neighbor we noticed that the top row of houses was gone. I thought: has it snowed that much or have they burned? "We ran over and saw the top row of houses standing right up against the railing below. We realized then that there had been an avalanche."

'Help. Kids are missing'

The next few hours the 16-year-old will never forget.

"A man shouted that we had to help him because his kids were missing," Amalie said. "We ran there, but had nothing to dig with. I called some friends who came with shovels and I picked up a shovel at home. At the same time I put on my avalanche transceiver and reflective vest."

But before they began digging, they had to find out where the house actually was.

"We started to dig, but then said a different neighbor that he recognized what we found and that the objects were from his house," Amalie said. "Everything was flat and covered with snow. Then we agreed that the kids were last seen in the hallway and oriented ourselves to what we thought might have been a hallway in their house."

Found shoes

People kept flooding in to help the entire time the feverish evacuation was in progress. Suddenly, Amalie found a pair of shoes.

"I thought that one of the children would be there, but as it was it was only a couple of loose shoes," she said. "So I stopped digging there and began in another place. A while afterwards one of the kids was found only 20 centimeters from where I was. They must have been under the snow for at least an hour by then."

It was difficult seeing the lifeless young body taken out of of snowpack. Amalie had met the children several times and knew Atle Husby, the teacher who died in the landslide.

"I've seen things a 16-year-old would rather not see. Only in retrospect did it come to me that people in that rough a time should be adults. Right there and then I just though about finding the kids."

Never the same

Amalie is receiving help to cope with her the impressions. On Tuesday before Christmas she traveled down to the mainland for Christmas break with a friend outside Larvik. She said she is looking forward to that. And the future in Longyearbyen is uncertain.

"I'm glad we will not celebrate Christmas in our house," she said. "There are too many impressions that linger. The neighborhood will never be the same."

Trtanslated by Mark Sabbatini

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